New MDARD Grants Aim to Advance and Diversify Food and Ag Businesses

Agency: Agriculture and Rural Development

For Immediate Release: July 18, 2019
Media Contact: Jessy Sielski, 517-284-5725
Program Contact: Peter Anastor, 517-284-5777

LANSING—During its regularly scheduled meeting today, the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development voted to approve Food and Agriculture Investment Fund grants for six food and agriculture projects in Michigan. With these projects, the Commission has approved 24 projects this fiscal year, leading to hundreds of new jobs and millions of dollars of new private investment in the food, agriculture, and forest products sectors of Michigan. This new round of grants will help increase the use of Michigan milk and cream, support the state’s potato and forest products industry, and lead to increased food manufacturing and the diversity of grains produced and processed in Michigan.

“Michigan’s diverse food and agriculture industry is ripe for a major resurgence,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “We have the best resources, we have the most innovative entrepreneurs, and we offer support and expertise that can help ignite small- and mid-sized businesses throughout the state. Through the Food and Agriculture Investment Fund grants, we will not only continue to create hundreds of new jobs in both urban and rural areas, but we will also help keep Michigan a national leader in the food and ag industry.”

“America’s food and agriculture industry has been faced with many challenges recently,” said Gary McDowell, Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “That is why it’s more important than ever for Michigan to invest in the businesses and the communities that make up one of the state’s largest economic drivers. Along with the connections and expertise of MDARD’s business development specialists, these grant programs send a message to food and ag entrepreneurs everywhere: the best place to start or grow your business is clearly Michigan.”

Mead Johnson & Company LLC, of Zeeland, Michigan, will receive a $175,000 performance-based grant toward the expansion of its infant formula manufacturing facility in Zeeland. The company, which has been in Zeeland since 1924, is a leading maker of nutritional products that support infants and children. The project will include building renovations to add a new employee entrance and the installation of new machinery and equipment that will enable the facility to become the global supply and technical center for hypoallergenic infant formulas. The project will require a capital investment of $67.7 million and will lead to the creation of 39 new jobs. The company continues to work with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Lakeshore Advantage for support and approval of state and local property tax abatements.

Hudsonville Creamery and Ice Cream Company LLC, of Holland, Michigan, will receive a $60,000 performance-based grant to support the purchase of new machinery and equipment that will expand and diversify the packaging line at its facility in Holland, Michigan. The project will lead to an investment of $863,300 and the creation of three new jobs, and it will allow Hudsonville Creamery to expand its customer base and increase its utilization of Michigan milk and cream. Hudsonville Creamery was created as a dairy co-operative in 1895. Today, it produces more than 50 flavors of ice cream that are sold primarily in grocery stores and scoop shops throughout the Midwest.

West Thomas Partners LLC (The GFB: The Gluten Free Bar), of Grand Rapids, Michigan, will receive a $50,000 performance-based grant to support the installation of new machinery and equipment at its processing facility in Grand Rapids. The project will require a $287,900 investment and will lead to the creation of 12 new jobs, increase production, expand sales, and meet growing customer demand. The company opened its first facility in Grand Rapids in 2012 and quickly grew by producing gluten free snacks that are carried at more than 12,000 stores in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia. Major customers include Meijer, Kroger, SpartanNash, Publix, Costco, CVS, TJX, Fresh Thyme, Whole Foods, Sprouts, Wegman’s and many other leading retailers. The Gluten Free Bar received the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s first ever Rising Star award in 2017 for its work to increase international export sales growth to Canada.

Bessemer Plywood Corporation, of Bessemer, Michigan, will receive a $100,000 performance-based grant for the construction of a 30,000 square-foot building addition that will house a more efficient veneer dryer and associated components in Bessemer. The company will invest $3 million, and the project may lead to the creation of up to 10-20 new jobs. The investment will add capacity to the production process and increase throughput of the product, increasing the facility’s capacity to respond to plywood market opportunities. The project will increase the local market for high-quality logs, providing additional value-added capacity for higher grade timber. Bessemer Plywood has been in operation since 1986 and currently produces certified sheathing, underlayments, certified panels and industrial grade plywood ranging from one-quarter inch to one-and-one-eighth inches.

Sklarczyk Seed Farm LLC, of Johannesburg, Michigan, will receive a $100,000 performance-based grant to support the construction of a new 14,363 square-foot greenhouse and a new 6,400 square-foot building to house a new tissue culture laboratory and potato storage in Johannesburg. The project will require an investment of approximately $1.5 million and will lead to the creation of seven new jobs. With the investment, the company will increase production by 30 percent and will create the ability to provide separation of GMO from non-GMO material. Sklarczyk Seed Farm started as a potato and grain crop farm in 1942 and developed into an innovative seed potato operation through the development of tissue culture seed production in the 1980s. Today, the company produces 5.5 to 6 million mini tubers each year that are shipped throughout the United States, Canada, Chile, Thailand, Brazil and the Middle East.  

Maple Drive Farms LLC (Tenera Grains), of Addison, Michigan, will receive a $40,000 performance-based grant for the purchase on new machinery and equipment to develop a new cleaning and packaging facility for gluten-free grains, specifically teff grain. The company will invest $294,600 in the project, which will lead to increased capacity to clean, store and package gluten-free grains at its facility in Addison. This investment will allow Tenera Grains to meet the demand of buyers, such as The Andersons and Teffola, a local granola company that is rapidly growing. The company and related farm are owned and operated by a sixth-generation farmer who wanted to diversify into an innovative product and process in order to provide an opportunity to improve the economic fortunes for both his family and the surrounding community.  

“The companies supported with Food and Agriculture Investment Fund dollars highlight Michigan’s agriculture diversity and we are happy to work with our economic development partners across Michigan to accelerate their growth,” said Peter Anastor, Director of MDARD’s Agriculture Development Division. “The projects will have a big impact on Michigan’s dairy, forest products, potato, grain and food manufacturing sectors and we are happy to have a broad range of projects located in communities from Addison to Zeeland.”

The Food and Agriculture Investment Program provides financial support for food and agriculture projects that help expand food and agriculture processing to enable growth in the industry and Michigan’s economy. Projects are selected based on their impact to the overall agriculture industry and their impact to food and agriculture growth and investment in Michigan.

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