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McCadam plant addition explored in Chateaugay

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CHATEAUGAY — A spokesman for the local McCadam Cheese plant’s parent company confirmed Friday that the company is taking a look at possibly expanding the facility — and potentially adding more jobs.

Douglas DiMento, director of corporate communication at the New England dairy co-op Agri-Mark, which purchased McCadam in 2003, said a preliminary study is underway investigating whether money should be invested in the Chateaugay plant or the Cabot Creamery facility in Middlebury, Vt.

The Chateaugay plant also produces Cabot cheese.

“We’re looking at what’s the best way to get the most product out of our facilities,” Mr. DiMento said, noting that the demand for Cabot cheese in particular is exploding and Agri-Mark wants to keep up with it. “The bottom line is we need to make more cheese.”

Mr. DiMento said some of the expansion would be for added storage facilities, too. He was unsure how many jobs might come along with the larger facilities or how much the company might spend, but he expects that information will be available in a few months. The Chateaugay plant currently employs 120 people.

“It’s realistic to think that expansion might occur at both places, but it’s a question of what goes where,” he said.

“That would be great, if it happens,” said Chateaugay Town Supervisor Donald Bilow. “I hope the expansion leads to more jobs and business in town, especially with the prison closing.”

The Chateaugay Correctional Facility, a major employer in the community that once employed more than 110 people, will officially close July 26.

“I’m sure the natural gas pipeline is a big factor in their decision,” Mr. Bilow added. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

The pipeline extension by Enbridge/St. Lawrence Gas from St. Lawrence County into Franklin County has been stalled due to difficulties drilling through rocks to create usable holes that will not damage pipes.

Homeowners whose properties are adjacent to the Collins Street plant have been approached about whether they would be willing to sell, Mr. DiMento said, although he didn’t indicate if any agreed to sell or if the company made an offer to anyone.

He said even if the expansion doesn’t come about at this time, the plant still needs a lot more parking space. A purchase of nearby property could make such an expansion possible.

“They’re making the tractor-trailers bigger now. Everybody’s trying to haul as much as they can. We had to expand the receiving bays, but parking is still a big issue,” Mr. DiMento said.

He said Agri-Mark hasn’t been in touch with town and village officials yet about the possibility, but will be in the coming weeks.

The biggest challenge that comes with expansion, Mr. DiMento said, is keeping the plant running at the same time construction is going on.

“We can’t shut the plant down,” he said. “Cows produce milk seven days a week, every week of the year, and we owe it to the farmers to keep up with that.”

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