published Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Manchester, Tenn., lands $100 million cheese plant

GREAT LAKES CHEESE

• Headquarters: Hiram, Ohio

• Sales: More than $2.2 billion

• Existing plants: Eight facilities in Ohio, New York, Wisconsin and Utah

• New plant: 330,000-square-foot plant to be built in Manchester, Tenn.

• Ownership: 80 percent family owned and 20 percent employee owned. Forbes lists the company as the 214th largest privately held firm

• Existing staff: 2,300 employees

• Manchester staff: Initially 80 to 100 employees growing to 200 by 2019

A Manchester, Tenn., sod farm turned industrial park will soon be covered in cheese.

Great Lakes Cheese Co., announced plans Tuesday to build a $100 million cheese packaging plant in the Manchester Industrial Park, just a mile off of Interstate 24 about midway between Chattanooga and Nashville. The facility will be the fourth biggest among nine plants operated for the $2 billion-a-year cheese maker. It also will be the largest one-time investment ever in Coffee County.

Construction of the 330,000-square-foot cheese processing plant — the size of nearly six football fields — will help Great Lakes Cheese expand its capacity and better serve the South, company officials said. The Manchester plant will not produce any cheese, but it will serve as a packaging plant where cheese will be cut, sliced, shredded and packaged for shipment throughout the Southeast.

“This strategically positions our supply chain to give us a Southeast distribution that we don’t now have,” said Lisa Schechterman, marketing manager for Great Lakes Cheese.

Schechterman said the plant should employ 80 to 100 workers when shipments begin, probably by the end of 2014. The facility is projected to grow to 200 employees over time.

The company will locate the packaging plant on about 60 acres and have options for another 60 acres in the 400-acre industrial park that the city of Manchester is creating on a sod farm near I-24.

“This is a flat site and in the summer is almost like a putting green,” said Ted Hackney, executive director of Coffee County Industrial Board. “Our city and county governments are very favorable

to and cooperative with private industry and I think that atmosphere is what led to this project.”

The Tennessee Department of Transportation recently completed construction of a connector road from the industrial park to I-24. The city will provide the 120-acre site for Great Lakes Cheese and the company also is likely to receive property tax breaks for the project over the next 20 years.

“We’re still working out those details of the payment-in-lieu-of-tax agreement (PILOT),” Hackney said.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam welcomed the new investment Tuesday, insisting that it demonstrates “the state’s qualified and dedicated workforce” and central location within a day’s drive of most of the eastern half of the United States.

“Tennessee’s ideal location, first-class infrastructure and unparallelled logistical advantages allows companies like Great Lakes Cheese to feel confident in their decision to open a new facility here,” said Bill Hagerty, Tennessee’s commissioner for Economic and Community Development.

Great Lakes Cheese is a primary cheese supplier for groceries, delicatessens and other food service operations. Most of the company’s cheese is sold under private label names.

“We believe that having strategically placed manufacturing facilities is essential to serving the evolving needs of our customers and to provide opportunities for future growth,” said Craig Filkouski, vice president of operations for Great Lakes.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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