ZUMBROTA -- Owners of a Zumbrota dairy processing plant are proposing an $87.3 million investment to replace key equipment and upgrade the facility.

The Dairy Farmers of America cooperative announced that it is in talks with the City of Zumbrota and Goodhue County about the project at the cheese and dairy powder processing plant, which employs about 130 people.

When asked if DFA is seeking financial support from the local governments, Zumbrota plant manager Terry Johnson responded by stating, "We look forward to working in partnership with the city and the country through this period to confirm the feasibility of moving forward."

The proposed improvements include a new cheese and specialty powder dryer, a new wastewater pre-treatment facility and a new building to be used for locker rooms, breakrooms, offices and other employee working and welfare space.

The upgrade will not mean more -- or fewer -- jobs at the manufacturing plant.

"These improvements will not only help us increase efficiency and enhance our employees’ work environment, but they will also upgrade our capabilities to allow us to better serve our customers for the long term," Johnson said in a news release.

If everything goes as planned, construction is expected to start this summer with the installation of the powder dryer and be completed by 2022.

This project follows close on the heels of DFA's closure of the Kemps milk processing operation in Rochester. That move, which cut 200 jobs, was driven by Associated Milk Producers Inc. shutting down its Rochester facility. Kemps leased space within the Rochester complex.

While there have been legal conflicts between DFA and the City of Zumbrota in the past over wastewater discharge violations, the cheese manufacturing plant has long been a significant employer in the city.

In 2016, the facility was processing about 8 million pounds of milk a week and contributed more than $100 million annually to the local economy, according to an economic study.

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