The $250 million plant expansion will dramatically increase production at the facility. The plant is being developed in three phases. By March 2013 the expansion will reach phase two and amount of milk needed to operate the plant will nearly double.
Currently Leprino Foods uses 1.5 million pounds of milk each day. It currently uses that milk to produce non-fat dry milk. When expansion reaches phase two, they will begin bringing in 2.5 to 3 million pounds of milk a day and begin manufacturing cheese.
By the time the expansion is completed and reaches phase three, Leprino Foods will increase the amount of milk needed each day to seven million pounds.
Those seven million pounds of milk a day will be transformed in 700,000 pounds of cheese each day.
The expansion is also translating into jobs. Leprino Foods is currently looking to add 200 employees for the Greeley facility and when the project is completed the work force will grow to approximately 500.
The impact of this expansion will go well beyond the gates of the 500,000 square foot facility.
"It is significant. It goes everywhere from the dairy farmers and milk production there to their suppliers," says Eric Berglund, President and CEO of Upstate Colorado Economic Development.
Berglund says an economic study shows the expansion of the Leprino plant will contribute $1 billion to Greeley's economy over the next 20 years. The economic impact will go well beyond Greeley's city limits. It is expect the economic gains for Weld County will be $7 billion and the State of Colorado could see a gain of $17 billion.
To fill Leprino Food's increased demand for milk, Weld County is seeing growth in dairy farms.
"I know in Weld County we just had an 8,000 head dairy approved, so we're seeing a lot of new dairies coming into the area," Berglund said.
The growth in the dairy industry is good news for Colorado farmers who produce feed for those operations.
"It should be an awesome thing for Colorado farmers," Weld County corn farmer Glenn Fritzler said.
While the increased milk production by dairies will create a greater market for cattle feed, there is one problem: Corn farmers in Colorado, especially in Weld County, are struggling to find enough water to grow their current crops.
Limits on water will place limits on how much additional corn they can grow for the dairies.
"It will be a challenge to meet the demand, especially with the situation we're in right now," Fritzler said. "We have limited water and to make milk and make cheese you have to have corn and to have corn you have to have water."
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)