Luana plant expanding

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By Pat McTaggart

Freelance Writer

 

Swiss Valley Farms corporate headquarters has announced a $20.6 million expansion of its Luana cheese manufacturing facility. The facility was built in 1961 and was acquired by Swiss Valley in 1967. Since its acquisition by Swiss Valley, the Luana plant has undergone several renovations including one in 1971 when it was reconfigured to produce Swiss cheese in 100 pound blocks.  New Swiss cheese-making equipment was installed in 2001 and new silos for increased milk storage capacity were installed in 2010.

The newest expansion will include replacement of the plant’s current press vats with a molding system solution, updated press tunnels, new buffer tanks and additional system automation. Also included is a 23,000 square foot expansion for the new equipment and additional warehouse space.

“The company was looking for other options out of state,” Clayton County Development Group Executive Director Darla Kelchen said.  “The decision of Swiss Valley to expand in Clayton County was based on a partnership of many different groups, including the company itself, the Clayton County Supervisors, the local Luana government, Northeast Iowa Community College and the Iowa Economic Development Authority Board.”

For its part, Clayton County offered Swiss Valley a 100 percent 10_year tax abatement on the new expansion. The Iowa Economic Development Authority Board awarded Swiss Valley $465,000 in direct financial assistance as well as tax benefits for the capital investment.  Northeast Iowa Community College has offered job training programs for the project.

“The county had to be a partner with Swiss Valley before the company could apply for state assistance,” Kelchen said.  Working together with several different entities made this all possible.”

The Luana plant currently employs 89 people.  The plant manufactures Swiss, Baby Swiss, Neufchatel and Gouda cheese as well as cream cheese and sweet whey powder.  With the expansion, the company expects to hire ten more employees and expand its products to include Maasdam, Havarti, Muenster and possibly other cheese.

Swiss Valley is a four state cooperative headquartered in Davenport. It is controlled by 626 dairy producers. The Luana plant is Swiss Valley’s largest manufacturing facility and handles more than 7,000 milk trucks a year. Swiss Valley is expected to break ground on the project in 2015, with the expansion project set to be completed the following year.  It is expected that the expansion will double the plant’s natural cheese production capacity.

“The Swiss Valley expansion will be important for the dairy producers in our county and region,” Clayton County Supervisor Ron McCartney said.  “There have been two plants close in recent times, one in Iowa City and one in Kalona.  The project in Luana will have a positive impact on the local market for bulk milk.”

“This expansion will keep the jobs we already have and will give us new jobs in Clayton County,” Kelchen added.  “Working together made this possible, and it’s wonderful to see Swiss valley willing to expand in Iowa.  We are very happy to have them here.”

 

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