An Iowa company is seeking approval from the city Planning Board to build a $40 million processing plant behind the Fage USA Dairy Industry plant.
On Tuesday, Proliant Dairy pitched its proposal to the board to build a plant that would take whey — a leftover by-product from Fage’s yogurt production — and turn it into animal feed to be sold overseas. Board members were told by principals of Proliant Dairy the company will run a pipe from Fage USA to the new plant that would transport the whey.
Proliant is looking to build a roughly 39,000-square-foot addition to an existing but vacant 35,000-square-foot warehouse in the Johnstown Industrial Park. The warehouse is currently owned by Boston-based Stag Capital Partners and used to house the former H&J Leather, Finkle Distributors and Core-Mark International firms.
In November 2013, Fage USA and Proliant announced an agreement to provide an outlet for the excess whey the company produces.
Before moving forward with the plans, the company must receive approval from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and obtain local building permits. The board declared itself lead agency for the project’s state environmental quality review.
Planning Board President Peter Smith said typically for a project of this size, the board tries to be cooperative with the applicant and not deter further development.
“We try to be enablers,” he said.
Proliant told the board it hopes to begin construction in May 2015. Smith believes that is a realistic goal, citing steps the company has taken to receive state and local approval.
Many board members said they the project, which would likely create between 30 and 40 new jobs, could be an economic boon for the city. Terri Easterly, a board member, said she believes the project will greatly benefit the area.
“This project will create good paying jobs, and that will help the area,” she said. “It is well designed, and I am excited that they want to come to Johnstown.”
Smith echoed those sentiments, saying it looks like a “sound project both economically and environmentally.”
However, City Engineer Chandra Cotter, who also sits on the Planning Board, said the sewer system around the plant will need to be upgraded if the project is approved. She said the flow of sewage would be too much for the system to handle at its current capacity.
Cotter said the city is mulling options that include the city paying for the upgrades, the company paying for the upgrades or splitting the cost.
On Sept. 2, the board will hold a public hearing and then vote on the project.