During one of the first stops on his eighth annual “Up North” Tour, Gov. Jim Doyle stopped at a Town of Maine cheese manufacturer last Thursday to announce that it had been awarded one of 20 tax credits. The credits are designed to help Wisconsin cheese manufacturers expand and modernize their operations to help keep the dairy industry the leader in the nation.
Lactalis American Group, which operates manufacturing plants south of Merrill and in Belmont, received $57,000 in Dairy Manufacturing Facility Investment credits for the $2.7 million expansion at both locations.
The Dairy Manufacturing Facility Investment Credit, facilitated by the Department of Commerce, rewards companies for up to 10 percent of the amount paid in the taxable year for dairy manufacturing modernization or expansion investments. Lactalis is one of the 20 dairy manufacturing facilities and three cooperatives that are receiving Dairy Manufacturing Facility tax credits this year. Together, they have invested $46.6 million and created close to 70 jobs.
During his visit, Doyle said these credits were crucial to Wisconsin holding onto its title as the nation’s Dairy State by providing incentives to operations of all sizes to expand their facilities and retain or add employees.
“We have to make sure we’re good partners with companies like Lactalis, and others that are making major investments in the state,” Doyle said. “Agriculture and dairy are the backbone of Wisconsin’s economy – contributing more than 10 percent of the jobs in Wisconsin and about $59 billion to our economy every year,” Governor Doyle said. “The Dairy Manufacturing Facility Investment Tax Credits we are announcing today are helping Lactalis stay competitive on the global market, so that it can continue to thrive and support jobs here in Wisconsin.”
Lactalis vice president of manufacturing Jean Paul Quiblier was on hand for the governor’s announcement and said the company was going to expand its operations at both plants even without the credits, and said the company would use the extra money for training of its employees.
Since the manufacturing credit was introduced in 2008, the state has provided $2.6 million in tax credits to help leverage more than $140 million in capital investments at 36 facilities. The investments have helped create more than 350 jobs, according to a statement from Doyle’s office.
He said the credit was created at a time when the dairy industry in Wisconsin was declining because manufacturers and farmers were not investing in expansion while California was making a major push to take the title away.
“Since we started the tax credit over the past 7 years, we’ve taken back that title from California; it’s been a total reversal since the start of the last decade. Wisconsin is expanding its cheese operations; California is reducing,” Doyle said. “We are clearly the No. 1 state.”
Lactalis produces Rondele brand cheese spreads at its Town of Maine plant and it added a third production line in 2009. Quiblier said the plant also added processed cheese production capabilities to help fuel sales growth into South America.
Lactalis is one of the 20 dairy manufacturing companies and three cooperatives that are receiving the tax credits this year.Ã?Â¢Ã?Â?Ã?Â¯These companies have invested a combined $46.6 million and created close to 70 new jobs. Doyle says those jobs are vital in this economy when so many workers and farms have been put out of business or severely impacted by poor dairy prices.
Earlier this year, Governor Doyle signed into law several bills to create jobs and support investment in the state’s agricultural industries. These bills created a food processing tax credit to create investment opportunities for Wisconsin food processing and distribution businesses; extended the dairy modernization tax credits through 2012 to help hard-pressed dairy farmers invest in their operations; and created a Farm to School program to help more Wisconsin schools have easier access to locally grown fruits and vegetables.