As published in Toledo Business Journal - April 1, 2015
Clemens Food Group (CFG) has plans to build a new pork processing operation in Coldwater, Michigan, which is expected to cost $255.7 million and bring 810 new jobs to Michigan.
The company expects the permitting process for the 550,000 square foot facility to take approximately 12-18 months, with a groundbreaking sometime in late summer 2016 and the facility opening in late 2017 or early 2018.
“This project was really spearheaded by a group of Michigan producers who sponsored a feasibility study, and that feasibility study made the case for a processing facility,” said John Masotta, director of communications for CFG. “For us it really fit for a number of reasons. Those producer partners had a long legacy in pork production, and they are family-run organizations that came from a similar mindset of the business as we do. You combine those partners with the location we ended up selecting in Coldwater, Michigan, it was a great central location with good infrastructure, and it really fit for us from that standpoint.”
“The new project in Coldwater Township is agricultural entrepreneurism at its best with producers, the State of Michigan, and local government working together to bring 800 new jobs to our state,” said Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. “The Clemens family is a recognized leader in pork production and its investment here signals to executives of all industries across the country that Michigan is the place to do business.”
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) worked with a group of Michigan pork producers for approximately three years considering the merits of siting a pork processing plant in Michigan, providing a $100,000 MDARD grant to conduct a feasibility assessment for a pork processing plant in the state.
According to MDARD, based on that analysis they pursued a strategy to find a business partner with expertise in marketing and value creation as an integral part of its business model and to create a relationship with this partner that would benefit the industry in Michigan.
“This decision by the Clemens family only underscores that Michigan’s food and agriculture sector is ripe for innovative business opportunity, economic development, and new jobs. It’s a growing industry and we’re excited to have a pork processing plant back in the Great Lakes State,” said Jamie Clover Adams, MDARD director. “The project further highlights the commitment and partnership by local and State officials, economic development groups, and private industry to bring new companies and investment into Michigan.”
Another key to the success of the project was the collaboration of Coldwater and Coldwater Township on a land transfer agreement. The transfer will allow the City of Coldwater to contribute $4.5 million toward the project for infrastructure improvements at the site, including water and sewer main extensions and a new municipal electric overhead distribution line. That support, along with Michigan Strategic Fund approval of a Community Development Block Grant, is part of an overall package of local and State support that will total $55 million. This also includes nearly $16 million in tax savings as a result of the recently approved personal property tax reform.
“We strive to sustain and grow our local and regional community,” said Paul Beckhusen, Branch County Economic Growth Alliance president and Coldwater Board of Public Utilities director. “The addition of the Clemens Food Group to our community exemplifies our vision and illustrates the positive direction in which we continue to lead. This project has been a template of success for State, regional, local and private partnerships – all working together to attract an ideal corporate citizen like the Clemens Food Group.”
CFG is a 119-year-old, six-generation family-owned company based in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. According to Masotta, the company has been entrenched in Pennsylvania agriculture for many years and is excited about the possibility of moving out to the Midwest.
“We have our core facility in Hatfield, our original facility, but the need for a new facility ties back to the feasibility study,” said Masotta. “There is a large group of producers in that area, both in Michigan as well as in Indiana and in Ohio, who have been raising hogs and ultimately have been sending those hogs to other states or further distances, and putting a facility in Michigan allows us to keep those hogs close to where they’re raised. It’s better for the animals but ultimately it’s a really strong economic proposition to be able to process the hogs close to where they’re being raised.”
“On behalf of our more than 2,000 employees, our family shareholders, and our family farm partners who have joined us in this venture, we thank Governor Rick Snyder and leaders in Michigan and Coldwater and Coldwater Township for having the vision to see the opportunities to position the state to compete in the global pork market,” said Doug Clemens, Clemens Food Group CEO.
The process of producing fresh pork at the facility will create about 810 jobs ranging from entry level to skilled and management positions, according to Masotta.
“These are significant jobs for the Coldwater community and the region, and we commend MDARD for its commitment to bringing this project to Michigan,” said Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) president and CEO Michael A. Finney. “Clemens Food Group’s decision to invest here demonstrates to other global companies Michigan’s standing as one of the great agriculture centers in the US with a business climate that enables their success.”
Clemen’s customer base will include retailers throughout the area, service distributors, business to business opportunities, and export.
“This is a big project for us and we’re going to focus on making sure that we execute this project successfully and with the interest of everybody in mind,” said Masotta. “I think if we find throughout the process that the project goes well, and it hits the goal that we think, we’d certainly be interested in expanding further, but for right now this is where we’re focused.”