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Hill’s to construct new wet food plant in Tonganoxie, bring 80 new jobs to Kansas

Updated: Jun. 22, 2021 at 10:49 AM CDT
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TONGANOXIE, Kan. (WIBW) - Hill’s Pet Nutrition will construct a new wet food plant in Tonganoxie, which will bring 80 new jobs to Kansas.

Governor Laura Kelly says Hill’s Pet Nutrition plans to build a new pet food manufacturing plant in Tonganoxie. She said the new 300,000 square-foot building will cost over $250 million to construct and bring at least 80 new jobs to the community by 2025.

“Hill’s Pet Nutrition’s decision to invest $250 million in Kansas and bring 80 new jobs to Tonganoxie is further proof that Kansas’ Animal Health Corridor can out-compete any region in the world for these industry investments and jobs,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “With our central location, talented workforce and reputation as a global leader in animal health and science, our partnership with Hill’s is a no-brainer.”

Hill’s said it chose Tonganoxie for its new plant due to the location’s industrial park, strong community partnerships, workforce strengths and proximity to distribution requirements. It also said a major advantage to doing business in Kansas is being part of the KC Animal Health Corridor, which is home to over 300 animal health companies and represents the largest concentration in the world. It said the KC Animal Health Corridor currently accounts for 56% of all worldwide animal health, diagnostic and pet food sales.

“Hill’s Pet Nutrition is excited to be growing our roots in Kansas. We’ve been part of the community for almost 80 years and this new facility will help us to meet our mission of enriching and lengthening the special relationships between people and their pets by providing our high-quality nutrition,” Jesper Nordengaard, president of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, said.

Nearly four years ago, the city strongly opposed Tyson Foods’ plans to build in Tonganoxie. Residents still have strong feelings about it, but some see a difference with Hill’s.

Bambi Dome of Tonganoxie said, “Poultry is just not good when it gets wasted like that and it goes through our water and rivers and stuff, it’s just not good. Dog food, it kind of absorbs everything, and birds eat it so I think it’s biodegradable.”

Resident Madisen Lansing said he’s heard it could be rough for nearby landowners.

“Definitely heard some things about the space being taken up and having a lot more people move into the town, you know. It’s kind of a small town we obviously like our small-town vibe. I think the worry is that the town is really going to explode, there’s going to be a lot of people moving in.”

Both Dome and Lansing, want them to build this and stimulate growth, but ask city leaders to be patient before bringing in another corporation.

“I mean there’s going to be pros and cons to everything you do,” said Dome. “To me, I think it’s a good idea.”

Lansing said, “I don’t think it should be something that leads into more, ‘oh, we’re going to build this factory, we’re going to build more and more,’ I think it’d be a good opportunity to see how this goes when they build this.”

According to Gov. Kelly, plans for the new wet pet food processing plant call for an upscaled version of its Topeka plant, the only other Hill’s plant in the world that produces canned pet food. She said no slaughtering or rendering of meat would happen at the new plant as meat would arrive at the facility frozen and leave canned.

“Kansas’ expertise and prime location for animal health leaders is undeniable, and this planned investment from Hill’s is proof,” Lieutenant Governor and Commerce Secretary David Toland said. “Thank you to Hill’s for continuing to set the standard for Kansas animal health and pet food manufacturing. Our partnership with Hill’s is a source of pride for our state, and I’m so proud to see that partnership continue to grow even stronger.”

Gov. Kelly said Hill’s is committed to environmentally friendly initiatives, with three facilities that have achieved “Zero Waste to Landfill” status. She said the company announced in 2019 that it hopes to make all product packaging 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025, and use at least 25% recycled content to produce its pet food packaging.

“We are thrilled to welcome a quality company like Hill’s Pet Nutrition to Tonganoxie,” Steve Jack, Executive Director of the Leavenworth County Development Corporation, said. “This project will represent the largest capital investment ever made by a manufacturer in Leavenworth County. We’d like to recognize the vision and investment the city and county made in building the business park to allow us to take advantage of such a great opportunity.”

According to Gov. Kelly, the company still needs to complete city planning and zoning procedures and public hearings to consider the proposed tax abatement. Upon completion, she said construction is expected to begin during 2021 and be completed in 2023.

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