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Bluegrass Proteins acquires Dawson plant, begins hiring workers

DAWSON — A “help wanted” sign has replaced the “for sale” sign on the former American Milk Producers Inc. facility in Dawson.

Bluegrass Proteins Inc., of Kentucky, has finalized its purchase of the facility and is now hiring a work force to begin production there, according to information from the company and the Lac qui Parle County Economic Development Agency.

Bluegrass CEO Billy Joe Williams said the company wants to start production in Dawson as quickly as new equipment can be installed.

The plant is expected to employ 55 to 60 people when it reaches full production.

Bluegrass Dairy & Foods has two plants in Kentucky. The expansion into Dawson will allow the company to add whey proteins and permeates to its product line.

Its Kentucky facilities provide a line of specialty dairy products such as cheese powders, cultured skim milk powders and non-dairy creamers, according to information posted on its website.

The company expects to export most of the Dawson product, but will also sell the whey proteins and permeates to domestic customers.

The former AMPI plant is a “perfect fit’’ for Bluegrass Proteins, and the company is likewise a perfect fit for Dawson, said Pam Lehmann, director of the Lac qui Parle County EDA. The company needed a facility for its expansion plans, and the former AMPI plant offered the infrastructure and space it needed.  

The company operates in two rural Kentucky communities and appreciates the value of a rural work force, she noted.

While the new operations will not replace all of the 130 jobs present when AMPI ceased operations there at the end of 2012, there is a possibility that many of the former employees could take jobs with the new owner, she added.

Bluegrass Proteins is currently installing equipment at the plant. Williams said the plant will produce about 100,000 pounds of different powders per day when the plant is at capacity.

A Brookings, S.D., facility is expected to serve as the major source of whey for the Dawson operations, said Lehmann.

Lac qui Parle County has been working with the company to help provide Minnesota Investment Fund and job creation financing for the expansion. The company is seeking approximately $1 million in Minnesota Investment Fund financing to help acquire the equipment for the 200,000-square-foot building.

Tom Cherveny

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

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