The prominence of the dairy industry is growing in our part of the state and that is translating into hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars invested in West Texas.
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 A new cheese packaging and distribution center touted Monday in Abilene is expected to create 500 jobs and $185 million in capital over the next couple of years.

Here in Lubbock, Leprino Foods is expected to start construction on its plant this summer. When the plant opens its doors, it will rely on nearby dairy farmers for supply. That includes John DeVos, the owner of Fox Dairy just outside of Plainview. He’s a member of Dairy Farmers of America, the co-op that purchases milk for Leprino.

“Our co-op has contracts that bring the milk into Arkansas, sometimes into Georgia, Nashville, quite often it goes to Alabama. And those are markets that might bring a good price, but there is a lot of costs involved too,” DeVos said.

Because of those high transportation costs, he’s excited there will be a processing plant right down the road. DeVos says 20 years ago, there were hardly any dairies in the panhandle.

“Well, it tells us that we’ve grown tremendously. We have other plants in the area, but apparently, there is still room for more processing,” DeVos said.

Fox Dairy was part of that growth. DeVos, originally born and raised in Holland, moved his family to West Texas in 2002 to start the farm from scratch. It now operates with 3,000 head of milking cattle. Soon, his sons will take over the business and he says the Leprino plant provides some insurance that the dairy industry in the panhandle will last for generations.

“We’ve established the dairy industry here with the dairy producers, but now we, we building more and more infrastructure to give it longevity in this part of the world,” DeVos said.

DeVos says the dairy industry brings a lot of economic development to the area and the new plant will only spur that growth.

“And even for the local economy, Lubbock is getting more, more businesses there. And then people can find other jobs maybe, better-paying jobs, there’s more. It will keep Lubbock growing, too,” DeVos said.

At DeVos’ last co-op meeting, he heard Leprino Foods is still on track to start construction on the Lubbock County plant this June. It plans to start accepting milk in early 2025.

The marketers are at it again, breathlessly promoting “innovation” as a storm of startups gather, each hoping to cash out their venture capital before their business models crash and burn.

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