Dairy plant begins construction, will bring more than 900 jobs to Columbia

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COLUMBIA - The Aurora Organic Dairy plant in Columbia will officially begin construction Thursday.

The project, approved by Columbia City Council in February, will employ more than 840 people during the construction process, and once built, will provide 100 permanent jobs for the city.

Aurora Organic Dairy worked with Columbia Regional Economic Development, Inc. to bring a dairy plant to Columbia.

Dave Griggs, chair of the REDI Incentives Committee, said Columbia was chosen over several other locations in Missouri for its agricultural and geographic strengths.

"Interstate 70 and Highway 63 give great north, south, east, west transportation," Griggs said. "There are farmer producers that will sell them product. Our workforce is good, we have excellent workforce training."

Griggs said the plant will have a regional impact as well, because it will draw workers from beyond Columbia and Boone County, giving them a chance to start a career.

"You don't have to have a college degree to work there, which is important to lots of people," Griggs said. "They're fully benefited, so they have health insurance, vacation."

He said the average salary for the plant will about $45,000.

"This is a tremendous economic asset for our community, just for the jobs and millions of dollars of payroll that go into the system and our local economy every year," Griggs said.

The plant won't house any animals and will instead act as a fluid milk processing facility.

"They will take raw milk from the farm, be it private farms or some of their farms, and process it into milk products and eventually butter and maybe some other products," Griggs said.

According to the Missouri Census Data Center, an 800 mile radius around Columbia holds half of the United States population, another geographic bonus that Griggs said will maximize transportation of Aurora Organic Dairy products.

On Thursday, REDI and the dairy will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the new plant. The ceremony and the plant construction site are at the same location on Waco Rd. off Route B. 

The groundbreaking ceremony will start at 3 p.m. and will be open to REDI and dairy executives, local and regional economic development officials, elected officials and business representatives.