Schreiber Foods dedicates $60 million Monett expansion
Completed addition brings 100 jobs to local facility
Schreiber Foods celebrated completion of a $60 million expansion of its Monett plant on Thursday, which included a ribbon cutting and a visit to the plant by the international company’s executive board.
Construction has continued steadily on the Dairy Street site for much of the past year. Since Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) closed its east half of the dairy plant in 2013, Schreiber Foods bought the rest of the complex and sold off the huge storage tanks that housed milk brought in from area dairy farms. Last year, plans were announced for a major expansion of the Monett plant in conjunction with the city seeking state grant money to widen the entrance to Dairy Street at Highway 37, which was approved.
Expanding the plant building by 39,238 square feet cost $9 million. Equipment, much of it unique and state-of-the-art in the dairy industry, will provide all of the preservative-free American cheese for the McDonald’s restaurant chain in the U.S.
Tim Walls, executive vice president of Schreiber U.S., opened the ceremony recalling his stint as plant manager in Monett 11 years ago. Among the executive board from the company present was Larry Ferguson, who started as plant manager in Monett in 1980, and who now serves as chairman of the board for the international firm.
“I’ve worked on a lot of projects,” Walls said. “There are no easy ones, just different degrees of difficulty. Retrofitting an existing facility was not easy. I think you guys knocked it out of the park.
“I’m thankful to the board and the community. This project allowed us to hire almost 100 people. The project pool was almost all local contractors. The mayor and the city were equally supportive. It takes an entire community for a project like this. We’re now 300 partners strong at this facility. It was already big. Now we’re bigger.”
Mayor Mike Brownsberger said it has been exciting to watch the construction from the outside.
“I know what you were doing on the inside was important,” he said to Walls. “I want to thank Schreiber for all of what you’ve done. It’s so important to the community. The life blood of a community is good jobs, and the life blood of the company is good employees. Schreiber has been in Monett for 42 years. It’s been a great partnership. There’s 100 new jobs just in this plant. You spread that through the community and I’m sure the number is even more than that. It’s great to look forward when we can do a lot more together.”
“We are the kings of American cheese,” said Mike Haddad, president and chief executive officer. “We’re proving we earned the title. In Monett, you know how to make American cheese and make it well. We’re here to celebrate you.
“We’re going back to Green Bay, (Wisc., the company’s corporate headquarters), supporting you all the way. This is your plant to care for. We’re trusting you to care for your plant and each other.”
A formal ribbon cutting was held by the Monett Chamber of Commerce. The Schreiber executives made a point to say “cheese” as the ribbon was cut.
Plant manager Dan Swearingen took the executive board inside the plant for a presentation and a private tour of the new facility.
“I thought the tour went extremely well,” Swearingen said. “They were pleased with the investment and the equipment, and what it means to the community. In the presentation I shared employment numbers and the number of applicants we’ve had. They could see what a trained, strong workforce the Monett community has.”
Monett City Administrator Dennis Pyle said construction widening the west end of Dairy Street to better accommodate large trucks coming to the Monett plant will begin in the summer of 2019. Swearingen said plant operations will not be negatively impacted by the delay.
“We’ve taken a hard look at the road situation,” Swearingen said. “The construction will ease traffic during the 5 p.m. rush hour. DFA was bringing a lot of trucks in daily, but they came in from slightly different directions. We are going to receive trucks around the clock, and we’ll be shipping 20 hours a day.”
Swearingen noted that under DFA and its predecessors, the Monett plant received raw milk in bulk from local dairy producers. He saw the newest developments at Schreiber as a boost for local dairy producers.
“They tend to ship their milk out,” Swearingen said. “It will come back to us in a different form, not as fluid milk, but in the form of bulk cheese.”
When DFA closed, the loss of 75 jobs was keenly felt in the community. Swearingen was especially pleased that with Schreiber’s expansion completed, that many positions were created, and 30 percent more.
“When DFA left, we purposely held some positions open and hired some of their partners,” Swearingen said. “To replace and add jobs is exciting for the community. No one in the community likes to see [hiring more people] than us. It speaks to the 42 years we’ve been here and sets us up for a long time in the future.”
Schreiber Foods is now an international company, with production plants in Mexico, Germany, Brazil, India, France, Spain and several other European manufacturers making yogurt.