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Italian company picks Warren for $9.5-million investment

BY Andrew Maciejewski - amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

HUNTINGTON -- An Italian cheese producer plans to build a $9.5-million facility in Warren, promising to add 35 new jobs for Hoosiers by 2021.

Golfo di Napoli Dairy has already bought the 40-acre site near Interstate-69 at Exit 278 and plans to begin construction in September. The company expects to begin hiring workers for the facility before the end of 2018 so it can begin production in February 2019.

Huntington County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Mark Wickersham said the County and Warren have been looking to develop the newly-bought site for more than 20 years.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Huntington County, and you can’t say thank you enough to Antonio Somma at Golfo di Napoli,” Wickersham said. “Their family has been in the cheese production business in Italy for multiple generations, and it is a real honor that they have invested in Huntington County.”

Golfo di Napoli Dairy President Antonio Somma said they chose Warren because Indiana is the ideal place to produce fresh mozzarella, citing the abundance of dairy farms in the area and the ability to ship product across the Midwest.

The company has already established a partnership with Fair Oaks Farms, located in Jasper County, to provide Golfo di Napoli Dairy with certified organic milk to help make mozzarella, burrata, ricotta, provolone and other cheeses using a traditional technique from Naples, Italy.

Another factor in their decision was how helpful and welcoming Huntington County was, while the company evaluated properties across the Midwest.

But ultimately, he said teamwork played a big role in their decision.

“I don’t want to put words in their mouth, but the fact that the site was certified shovel-ready was the primary reason they took the time to look at it in the first place,” Wickersham said.

About a year ago, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs certified the site – through their Indiana Site Certified Program – giving it the “prime” distinction, which tells companies that the site is “shovel ready.”

“That hyper-accelerated the interest in the ‘developer’s world’ to become aware of the site,” Wickersham said.

To futher attract the company, The Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IDEC) offered the company $300,000 in performance-based tax credits, based on the company’s job creation plans. That means the company isn’t eligible to claim incentives until Hoosiers are hired.

The Huntington County Board of Commissioners have also offered conditional grant funding of $150,000. Similarly, as the company meets requirements, the County will begin to provide assistance, said Wickersham.

He said landing the investment will fuel local economies, in and around Huntington County. He said the dairy industry, feed industry, transportation industry and – in the short run – the construction industry will be affected.

“Companies are not investing in Huntington County because they’re like, ‘oh I can’t wait to pay taxes in Huntington,’” Wickersham said. “They’re coming here to do business and if they’re successful, other things that are really good will happen.”

Wickersham said as the company grows, the taxing entities will begin collecting increased tax revenues that could total an estimated $120,000, using current conditions. He also said employees of the company will begin investing in the community. For example, they will buy houses, groceries, clothes, medical services, legal help, and ultimately, if they do well enough, they could contribute to philanthropic activities.

“I can’t say enough about the state and local collaboration it’s taken to make this possible,” Huntington County Commissioner Larry Buzzard said in a press release. “Teamwork like this produces great results.”