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Say cheese: Wisconsin dairy industry’s strength stokes a pair of projects

July 27, 2022
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Ellsworth Creamery

The dairy farmer owners and cheesemakers of Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery opened their new Menomonie creamery and store.

The strength and vitality of Wisconsin’s dairy industry are showcased in two major state cheesemaking expansions worth a combined $86.1 million.

“Wisconsin companies and workers continue to move the dairy industry forward with innovations, research and training that make our state a leader in the food and beverage industry, drawing companies and investors from around the world,” said Missy Hughes, WEDC secretary and CEO.

Masters Gallery Foods began a $60 million expansion of its cheese packaging and distribution facility in Oostburg, a project that is projected to create 105 new jobs paying more than $23 an hour on average.

Meanwhile, the Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery opened a $26.1 million creamery and store in Menomonie.

“Nobody knows dairy like Wisconsin, and I’m proud of our work and investments to ensure this industry continues to succeed and thrive for years to come,” said Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers.

Wisconsin is the country’s No. 1 producer of cheese with nearly 1,200 licensed cheesemakers producing more than 600 types of cheese. About one-fourth of all U.S. cheese is produced in Wisconsin, with the state producing 877 million pounds of specialty cheeses last year.

Plymouth-based Masters Gallery Foods, a family-owned company, has grown from a small cheese brokerage into a national cheese supplier. Its 111,000-square-foot expansion doubles the size of its current Oostburg production area and adds storage and warehouse space.

“Cheese is big business in Wisconsin historically, today and, I believe, in the future as well,” Hughes said. “Cheese companies, such as Masters Gallery Foods, support our family dairy farms and help feed our world.”

Serving private-label, retail and food-service customers, Masters Gallery has one of the largest privately held cheese inventories in the U.S.

“Sheboygan County has been our home since 1974, and we’re thrilled to continue our growth with the recently completed expansion of our new Oostburg facility,” said Jeff Gentine, Masters Gallery Foods president and CEO.

Randy Romanski, secretary of the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, said the Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery project—which will create an additional 42 jobs—will help secure an important market for dairy producers. The creamery has more than 250 dairy farmer members.

“Wisconsin is known as America’s Dairyland due to our hard-working dairy farmers, high-quality milk, nutritious dairy products, and innovative companies like Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery,” Romanski said at the facility’s opening.

Hughes said the creamery investment will enable it to “grow nationally and internationally as well as develop additional specialty cheeses.”

The Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery’s 60,000-square-foot specialty cheesemaking facility replaced the cooperative’s aging Comstock Creamery.

“In its 112 years of operations, this is the creamery’s first new facility,” said Paul Bauer, creamery CEO.

Performance-based state tax credits played an important role in making the projects possible. WEDC, the state’s leading economic development agency, supported the Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery project by offering up to $500,000 in state tax credits, contingent on meeting targets for job creation and capital investment. At Masters Gallery Foods, WEDC is providing up to $1.5 million in tax credits.

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