Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA) has a simple mission statement: To market MMPA members’ milk to the greatest advantage possible. The succinct directive has proven to be successful.
Founded over 100 years ago, the dairy farmer-owned cooperative has grown to represent nearly 1,600 dairy farmers in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The cooperative supplies over 1 billion pounds of milk per year to local bottlers who fill the milk jugs found on grocery store shelves. It also produces dairy products such as butter, nonfat dry milk, cream, and condensed skim milk.
MMPA operates dairy processing plants in Constantine and Ovid, Michigan, as well as a specialty cheese facility in Middlebury, Indiana. The Constantine facility recently underwent a $24 million expansion project, creating 11 new jobs, adding a 7,500-square-foot processing area, and purchasing equipment to enhance the existing facility.
Constantine Plant Manager and 37-year employee Dave Davis has seen impressive changes over the years. “We’ve gone from processing a half-million pounds of milk per day here to 3 million pounds per day now,” said Davis. “It’s all to better serve our owner-members.”
One way member service has been improved is through automation improvements. “Thirty years ago, controls were more manual, and we adjusted weights to open steam valves,” Davis said. “Now computers control it all on an HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) screen.”
When filling job openings, this automation has led the organization to seek individuals with mechanical aptitudes. To ensure employee success, MMPA then provides customized, on-the-job training on the highly-technical and plant-specific evaporator, filtration, and separation equipment.
MMPA also emphasizes safety in the workplace, a fact in which Davis takes great pride. “This plant has had a near five-year record of no lost-time accidents.”
Another source of pride is the organization’s generosity. For the fourth year in a row, MMPA has donated fresh milk to the state’s food bank network. It contributed 150 gallons of milk per day this year, amounting to 54,750 gallons of milk going to Michigan area food banks. Over the last few years, it has donated a total of 2.6 million servings of milk, reaching communities in every corner of the state.
Davis sums up his experience with MMPA by saying: “I feel good to support agriculture and to produce a wholesome quality food ingredient that feeds America. It’s great knowing we support that industry.”
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Economic Development in Action
Jobs Creation is Never Black and White
Regional economic development catalyst Southwest Michigan First helped to support the creation of 11 new jobs and the retention of 65 positions at MMPA. But how?
It all started with onsite company consultations to build an ongoing relationship. When appropriate, the economic development group brought in partners from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Michigan Works!, and the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC). These entities have business-growth assistance programs in areas such as incentives for capital and infrastructure investments, training funds and workforce recruitment services, food safety certification offerings, exporting consultation, and more.
To bring this expansion project to completion, Southwest Michigan First helped assemble a package that included a $122,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant from the MEDC, a $200,000 MDARD performance-based grant from the Food and Agriculture Investment Fund, and a village of Constantine 12-year property tax abatement valued at approximately $600,000 on the new investment in real property. As the cost of doing business factors into decisions on choosing expansion locales, these incentives can help make this region more competitive and give a company a reason to expand locally.