The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Top Stories

October 16, 2012

Pet-food maker breaks ground for $85 million plant in Joplin; up to 150 jobs to be created

Bill Bishop was looking for a place in the Midwest to build an $85 million pet-food manufacturing plant and distribution center that would employ up to 150 people.

After looking at sites in several states, his company decided to go with Joplin, in part because of the way the city responded to the May 22, 2011, tornado.

It was Joplin’s attitude that impressed Bishop.

“We value the attitude in Joplin,” he said Tuesday morning during a groundbreaking ceremony for the plant in the Crossroads Center Business and Distribution Park. “There was no whining after the tornado. It was get off your a-- and get back to work. We respect that. You are the kind of people we want to work with.”

For Rob O’Brian, president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, it’s an example of watching for opportunities and taking advantage of those opportunities when they present themselves.

“A quick outreach first with our assets showed that Joplin was the right location for this plant,” he said, crediting Tom Crook, director of operations and sales with NEI Industrial Services, of Joplin, with making that first outreach.

Crook, in a telephone interview Tuesday, said Bishop’s company, The Blue Buffalo Co., of Wilton, Conn., approached NEI in late February of this year about the construction of a plant.

“In the course of that discussion, they told us they wanted to build the plant in either Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota or Missouri,” he said. “They did not want to take the time to do a site survey, which can easily take 12 months. They were (eager) to get started on designing the plant and getting it constructed.”

NEI Industrial Services operates in the Crossroads park. An employee suggested that the property at the northeast corner of Prigmore Road and East 32nd Street (Route FF) would be a good spot for the plant.

“We talked with O’Brian and the Joplin Industrial Development Authority, and one thing led to another,” Crook said. “O’Brian put together an extremely competitive package. They (Blue Buffalo) asked me for a recommendation. I told them: ‘I know I’m biased, but I think Joplin is your very best opportunity.”’

The company had looked at Nashville, Tenn., but the ingredients for the product would have to be shipped farther from their sources and that would cost more.

“Joplin is in the traffic lanes for their ingredients,” Crook said.

Crook said the attitude in Joplin was a factor.

“We talked about that,” he said. “They were very impressed with what Joplin did after the tornado. They appreciated the fact that Joplin was more independent about helping itself. It was that ‘God helps those who help themselves’ approach that they were very taken with. There’s no doubt about it. It was a factor in their decision.”

Not only would NEI Industrial Services design the 425,000-square-foot plant for The Blue Buffalo Co., it would find a site for its construction.

“Everybody involved in this pulled in one direction to make this happen, including the governor’s office,” said Crook.

Gov. Jay Nixon took part in the groundbreaking.

“Just as we saw this summer with Coca-Cola and Schaeffler Group USA, Joplin continues to see exciting economic developments, with another national brand like Blue Buffalo Company investing in this community,” Nixon said. “This is more evidence that Missouri’s stable and positive business climate is helping to move our economy forward.”

As part of that orchestrated effort, the Jasper County Commission on Tuesday approved the issuance of $55 million in industrial revenue development bonds to pay for the acquisition of manufacturing equipment for the plant. The company, as part of the deal, will pay an average wage equal to or greater than the current average county wage. O’Brian said that could be a wage of $17 to $18 an hour.

Blue Buffalo Company could be eligible for a strategic economic incentive package from the state of Missouri if it meets the strict job creation and investment criteria of each program.

Bishop said construction of the Heartland Pet Foods Manufacturing plant, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Blue Buffalo Co., will begin immediately. The plan calls for full production — 30 million pounds of pet food a month — to begin in 2015.

“It will be the most efficient and safest pet-food plant in America,” Bishop said.

The company now has 12 manufacturing partners. Six of them produce dry food, two produce wet food, and four produce treats. Bishop said the company will keep using its partners, but that the new plant “will become our main production plant.”

The company incorporated 10 years ago and went national in 2006. Bishop was a founder of the SoBe (South Beach) Beverage Co. in 1995. That company was purchased by Pepsico in 2001 for a reported $370 million in cash.

A factor in the company’s decision to build the plant in Joplin was a promise by the Missouri Department of Transportation to construct a new interchange on Interstate 44 to serve the Crossroads park. It is estimated 85 trucks will visit the plant daily.

Company profile

THE BLUE BUFFALO CO., according to its website, is the nation’s leading natural pet-food company, and provides a complete line of healthy and holistic foods and treats for dogs and cats. The company’s products are sold nationwide in pet specialty stores.

Text Only
Top Stories
  • r072214soroptimist3.jpg Volunteers spend week providing camp experience to foster youths

    Karen McGlamery is a massage therapist. Terri Falis-Cochran is a finance manager. Jane McCaulley is a retired art teacher. But for a week each summer, the three are among dozens of area residents who become camp counselors.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • 072214 Diamond Llama 1.jpg Llama on the loose tours downtown Diamond

    A lost llama on the lam hoofed it down Main Street here today before it took refuge in a fenced yard that had only one way in and out.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Neosho school board hires company to manage substitutes

    Citing its hopes of shifting health care costs and utilizing more time from retired teachers, the Neosho Board of Education granted a contract Monday to a temporary employee company to manage its substitute teacher program.

    July 22, 2014

  • Disabled Veterans Mem.jpg Memorial honoring injured veterans under way in DC

    Army Lt. Dawn Halfaker was on patrol 10 years ago in Baqubah, Iraq, when a rocket-propelled grenade tore through her military vehicle and exploded inside.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Joplin school board reviews audit procedures

    A team from the Missouri State Auditor’s Office has begun requesting documents in its task to audit the operations and management of the Joplin School District, the audit manager told the Board of Education on Tuesday.

    July 22, 2014

  • Cherokee County Commission accepts general counsel's resignation

    Kevin Cure, who has served as general counsel for the Cherokee County Commission since 2005, submitted a handwritten resignation to the board on Monday in the aftermath of a landfill controversy.

    July 22, 2014

  • Thunderstorms possible overnight in Joplin area

    Thunderstorms are expected to develop across northern Missouri late today and could move south into the area this evening and overnight, according to a hazardous weather outlook issued this afternoon by the National Weather Service.

    July 22, 2014

  • Mideast Iraq_Cast(4).jpg Iraq Christians flee with little more than clothes

    Iraqi Christians who fled the northern city of Mosul rather than convert to Islam by a deadline imposed by extremist militants said they had to leave most of their belongings behind and gunmen stole much of what they did manage to take along.

    July 22, 2014 4 Photos

  • 071514 KC Atkins 3.jpg SLIDESHOW: Treasures of Tut Through Sept. 7, “The Discovery of King Tut” will draw tens of thousands of visitors to Kansas City’s Union Station to discover the history and mystery of the most famous Pharaoh who ever reigned over the Nile Valley.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Kevin Cure resigns as counsel for county commission in wake of Galena landfill debate

    In the wake of a Cherokee County landfill controversy, Kevin Cure, who has served as general counsel for the county’s Board of Commissioners since 2005, submitted a hand-written resignation to the board on Monday.

    July 22, 2014