CASHTON — State officials awarded $1.4 million to the village of Cashton on Thursday for road upgrades near Organic Valley’s growing national distribution center.
The sizable state transportation grant was announced at Organic Valley’s campus here by company representatives, Wisconsin transportation and agriculture officials and Gov. Scott Walker.
The already bustling site could get even busier in a couple years when Organic Valley finishes a new office building for up to 400
employees. Improvements to Hwy. 27 and roads near the site will improve safety and allow for increased traffic, company executives say.
“We have a distribution center here that serves the whole nation,” Organic Valley CEO George Siemon said.
The road work will help Organic Valley retain about 138 jobs and create about 200 new jobs, according to the Department of Transportation.
Grants from the Transportation Economic Assistance program typically don’t exceed $1 million, but the award to Cashton is bigger because of the potential for job creation, said Mark Gottlieb, Wisconsin’s transportation secretary.
“We have a formula basically that ties the size of the grant we can give to the amount of jobs that are being created and retained,” Gottlieb said.
The grant is a hopeful sign for Organic Valley’s future, after the company suffered a major fire in May at its La Farge headquarters, Walker said.
“We’re proud that they’re here in the state of Wisconsin,” Walker said.
Road work planned for the Cashton site includes:
- Rebuilding the intersection of Hwy. 27 and Organic Drive to add right and left turn lanes, and new driving lanes to improve safety, according to a TEA report. The new intersection will also include eight-foot shoulders to improve safety for Amish buggies.
- Extending Organic Drive for 2,900 feet to better serve the distribution center and the company’s Cashton offices.
- Rebuilding 2,500 feet of Eagle Drive as a second option for drivers entering or leaving Organic Valley.
- Wider shoulders on Organic and Eagle drives for bicyclists, and a “shared use path” for pedestrians and bicyclists.
“It’s a sizable project,” Walker said. “But, as you can imagine, with this kind of growth and the size of this operation here it was one that made sense for the state.”
State funding will cover about half of the overall cost for the upgrades, said Louise Hemstead, chief operating officer for Organic Valley.
Work finished in July on a 35,000-square-foot addition to the distribution center. The new office building, slated to finish “probably 2016,” will be 40,000 square feet, Hemstead said. About 350 trucks run through the Cashton site each week, shipping about 330,000 cases of product.
“This is our main distribution point,” Hemstead said. “This is our hub.”
The improved roadways will allow the company to expand and support more traffic in and out of its distribution center, but “it’s really about safety,” Siemon said.