Platteville cheese business looking to double capacity

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — A Platteville cheesemaking company is looking to put more than $1 million into a local expansion project to double its production capacity and add 15 jobs.

Moundview Dairy has been in business since 2018 and currently employs about 20 people. Platteville Common Council members this week approved the company’s request to apply for up to $150,000 in Community Development Block Grant economic development funding to help cover expansion costs.

“We’ve been in business for four years now, and we’re growing,” said plant manager Jake Niffenegger. “(As we grow), we’re going to need more team members.”

Much of the $1 million expansion cost will go toward purchasing new and additional equipment to ramp up production capacity. If the company receives the grant funding, Moundview Dairy will have two years from the installation of the new equipment to hire the 15 new employees.

Grant County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Ron Brisbois said this expansion project has already been two years in the making. Brisbois is assisting Moundview Dairy with the CDBG application process.

“COVID put the brakes on (the project),” he said. “Now it’s time to move forward and apply.”

Under the requirements of the CDBG program, at least 51% of the new jobs must go to low- or moderate-income people, meaning those making less than 80% of the median household income in Grant County. If this requirement is not met, the money will have to be paid back.

“The (low- and moderate-income) threshold is paramount. We will have to do our due diligence to track (those numbers),” Brisbois said.

To make sure the company is meeting that requirement, applicants will be surveyed around the time they interview to determine their current income level. The new jobs at the plant likely will pay $16 to $17 per hour before training.

Council members were receptive to the expansion project and unanimously approved Moundview Dairy’s request to apply for CDBG funding.

The city would enter a contract with the state if the funding is approved. However, the project should not have a negative impact on city funds, as a development agreement would be struck to hold Moundview Dairy responsible for repaying the CDBG funding if necessary.

Representatives from the company do not anticipate the money needing to be repaid, however, as they expect to meet the job creation and low- and moderate-income hiring requirements.

“We have a good crew of people that are working there now. Currently, we’re 100% staffed, and not a lot of businesses can say that,” Niffenegger told the council. “And (with this expansion) we will have jobs out there for people who are wanting to work.”

Now that council has given the OK, Brisbois said the application likely will be submitted to the state within a week. The state then should issue a decision within six to eight weeks.

Niffenegger told the Telegraph Herald what while the expansion is not wholly contingent on receiving CDBG money, the additional funds would help speed up the process.

“It’ll be a bit of a struggle if we don’t get it,” he said. “For a business of our size, $1 million is a big deal … and this grant would help tremendously.”