Inside INdiana Business

EDC: Pet food company’s expansion builds on growing sector

(photo courtesy of Hill's Pet Nutrition)

RICHMOND, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The president of the Economic Development Corp. of Wayne County says the planned $17 million expansion of Kansas-based Hill’s Pet Nutrition’s facility in Richmond shows the company’s confidence in the city and county. The pet food company announced this week the expansion will take place over two phases and create 65 jobs by the end of 2023. “They see it worthwhile to continue investing in this plant in Richmond when they have the opportunity to invest in their other dry food pet food plants in either Kentucky or Kansas,” said Valerie Shaffer. 

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Shaffer said the expansion builds upon the growing animal food production cluster in the county.

“It started with Purina about 50 years ago. Hill’s came along about 30 years ago and then just about four years ago, we had a significant investment by Blue Buffalo in a new 400,000-square-foot plant. And that also joins another company over in Hagerstown called Country View Family Farms that produces hog feed,” said Shaffer. “So, animal food production is certainly one of our targeted industry clusters that we hope to continue to build upon.”

Shaffer says the county continues to bolster efforts to create a workforce pipeline for companies like Hill’s to find the talent it needs.

“For a couple of years now, we have had a regional jobs portal with our partners in Randolph and Jay counties where we allow our employers to post open positions for free and we spend a great deal of money on marketing those positions throughout our region and beyond,” she said. “In addition to that, Wayne County has developed a talent recruitment website and campaign where we have an abundance of resources for anyone who is looking to relocate to the area so that they can find the information that they need to make an informed decision.”

She adds regional partners are working on various training and upskilling efforts across the talent pipeline, which is a direct result of collaboration for the 21st Century Talent Region designation from the state. 

Shaffer says in addition to growing the talent pipeline, the EDC continues to meet with employers to find new ways to support their efforts.

“Whether it is finding supplies that they need or, obviously, finding workforce, we’re always looking to find what those pain points are to growth and be partners in alleviating those pain points so they can continue to thrive in Wayne County,” said Shaffer. “We’re always interested in of course seeking out new investment and new business, but our primary employers are our number one priority.”

The first phase of the Hill’s Pet Nutrition expansion is slated to begin this year and be complete in early 2022.