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Shuttered AMPI building in Dawson may have buyer

DAWSON — Local development officials say a company operating in Kentucky has signed a purchase agreement for the shuttered American Milk Producers Inc. building in Dawson.

The purchase is expected to be completed in February, according to Pam Lehmann, director of the Lac qui Parle County Economic Development Agency.

“It’s a great way to start the new year,’’ she said.

Lehmann said Bluegrass Proteins Inc. is seeking approximately $1 million in Minnesota Investment Fund financing to acquire equipment to be installed in the 200,000-square-foot building located east of Dawson.

The company is part of Bluegrass Dairy and Food Inc. with facilities in Glasgow and Springfield, Ky. The company produces cheese and a variety of specialty ingredients for the food industry.

The company plans to dry whey in the AMPI facility to produce protein and permeate (dairy solids), Lehmann said.

Calls to the company’s CEO by the Tribune were not immediately returned.

Lehmann said county officials hope to learn more about the company’s plans once an agreement is completed.

The Lac qui Parle County Board of Commissioners is conducting a hearing Feb. 4 on the financing request.

AMPI had more than 130 employees at the facility when it announced plans to close it at the end of 2012. Originally acquired by AMPI in 1982, the facility was used to produce block cheese and, in recent years, aseptic or shelf-stable dairy products such as cheese sauces and puddings. The building was closed when AMPI sold its aseptic dairy operations to Bay Valley Foods of Illinois.

The Illinois-based company removed much of the equipment that had been in the building. AMPI has maintained the facility, which includes boiler and wastewater treatment systems.

Lehmann said local officials were optimistic that a buyer would be found for the facility. She said there had been buyer interest almost from the beginning.

She said it is not known how many of the former workers will be interested in positions with the new company. Some of the AMPI employees took opportunities to transfer to other AMPI facilities, she said.

Bluegrass Protein has not announced how many jobs will be created, but Lehmann said the numbers will comply with Minnesota Investment Fund job creation guidelines. She said company officials indicated that they hope to see job numbers grow as operations ramp up.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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