Tillamook County, Wash., Creamery Association to Expand Boardman Cheese Plant

The Tillamook County Creamery Association announced a $50 million expansion of its Boardman cheese plant on Monday that will mean new jobs, more cheese and more cows in the region.

Jim McMullen, Tillamook's president and chief executive, said the company looked at expansion alternatives in Tillamook and Boardman. Boardman was the less expensive option.

"Our market is continuing to grow," and expanding the company's cheese-making capabilities is the only way to keep up with demand, he said.

Christie Lincoln, Tillamook communications manager, said the company plans to add 65,000 square feet to the company's 85,000-square-foot Columbia River Processing Inc. plant, which opened in 2001.

Officials expect the expansion to be complete by 2006, she said.

Tillamook makes medium cheddar, Monterey jack, pepper jack, colby jack and mozzarella at the Boardman plant.

Each day about 1 million pounds of milk are delivered to the plant. In 2003, the plant made 46 million pounds of cheese, Lincoln said.

Tillamook contracts with four Morrow County dairies to supply the plant with milk. Unlike the dairies in Tillamook County, the Boardman dairies are not part of the Tillamook County Creamery Association cooperative founded in 1909.

Lincoln said Tillamook likely will need more milk producers to keep the Boardman plant at capacity.

"Right now, we are allowing members in Tillamook to ship to the (Boardman) plant," she said. "But we'll likely need another 20,000 cows."

Rex Mather, Boardman city manager, said the growth will be good for the city.

"The first impact will be from the construction workers, who are good for the lodging facilities and restaurants," he said.

Because the plant is on Port of Morrow property in Morrow County, the city won't see any tax benefits. It's also unlikely the city will see any measurable growth from the expansion, he said.

"One of the situations we deal with is probably 70 percent of the people who work here don't live here," Mather said.

Boardman is a wonderful community, he added, but lacks some basic amenities, like a movie theater or clothing store.

But the expansion will have economic impacts that filter throughout Morrow County, said Gary Neal, Port of Morrow general manager.

The plant, which already employs about 65 people, will add another 50 to its payroll.

Neal said the additional cows needed to keep the plant going at full capacity will create an additional 270 dairy jobs and $135 million in dairy investments.

Construction of the plant is expected to take 19 months, and production at the new expansion is scheduled to begin in 2007.

Lincoln said Boardman plant cheese production is expected to increase to 190 million pounds per year.