Plans for $50M whey plant revealed

JOHNSTOWN – Officials from Iowa-based Proliant Dairy approached the city Planning Board on Tuesday with drawings for its proposed $50 million whey-processing plant to be built adjacent to Fage USA’s plant at the Johnstown Industrial Park.

Following the meeting, Proliant President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Weihs said the construction project will be done in two phases, with 20 employees hired to start and 15 more after the second phase is done.

“Our plan is to start in May 2015,” Weihs said.

Proliant is proposing a 38,893-square-foot addition at 199 Enterprise Road to an existing, vacant 34,907-square-foot warehouse building on 10 acres at the industrial park. The existing warehouse is currently owned by Boston-based Stag Capital Partners and used to house the former H&J Leather, Finkle Distributors and Core-Mark International firms.

“We have a thorough application for a building permit,” said Planning Board Chairman Peter K. Smith.

The board Tuesday at City Hall declared itself lead agency for the project’s state Environmental Quality Review process. It was noted the project doesn’t require a review by the Fulton County Planning Board.

Proliant Dairy Northeast Region General Manager Ed Jaquay told the board his company will run a pipe from Fage USA to the new Proliant plant to process the yogurt company’s whey by-product. He said 100 pounds of milk can create 30 pounds of yogurt, which can result in 60 pounds of whey.

“We developed a process; we developed a patent,” Jaquay said.

According to Jaquay, Proliant will turn the acidic whey into two or three loads of powder-form product per day. The processed product will be used to feed piglets and may be exported to China. He said Proliant has secured equipment to build a pilot plant in Minnesota, but the Johnstown Industrial Park plant will be the company’s largest operation of its kind.

Gloversville-Johnstown Wastewater Treatment Facility engineer Tyler Masick, who attended Tuesday’s session, recently said Proliant is looking to process Fage’s whey that the sewer plant can’t handle.

It was noted during the session that state Department of Environmental Conservation approvals will be needed.

“I think in general, we’ll probably need to do some upgrade of the existing infrastructure,” Jaquay said.

Engineer Bill Hadlock went over the Proliant site plan, which he said will necessitate meeting state requirements. He said the Proliant building will be similar to Fage’s, although “much smaller.”

City Engineer Chandra Cotter said sanitary regulations will have to be worked out with DEC, and utilities will be a “separate discussion” later. She said sewer issues will be discussed with Mayor Michael Julius and the Common Council.

Fire Chief Bruce Heberer said a separate meeting about the project would also have to include City Treasurer Michael Gifford.

The planning board told the Proliant officials they could do some site plan work before final project approval by the board.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.