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$90 million pet food factory opens in Joplin

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JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — A cat and dog food manufacturer has opened its first factory, a $90 million facility in Joplin.

Heartland Pet Foods Manufacturing opened the 415,000-square-foot plant Wednesday at Joplin's Crossroads Center Business and Distribution Park, the Joplin Globe reported (http://bit.ly/1toEGlL ). The company had previously contracted out its production to other plants.

Heartland's parent, Connecticut-based company Blue Buffalo Co., said the plant will employ 150 workers. It will slowly roll out its operations and is expected to be near full production by April.

Blue Buffalo CEO Kurt Schmidt said about 75 percent of its dry products will be handled at the new plant.

"We knew there was a big opportunity for us because, one, we're getting to the size where it's affordable, and two, we just needed it," Schmidt said.

Blue Buffalo selected Joplin in March 2012 — less than a year after the community was devastated by a massive tornado that killed 161 people — and started construction that fall.

"Joplin holds our core values: hardworking spirit, enthusiastic, and doing everything with speed. This showed during the (tornado) recovery effort," said Choo Lim, Blue Buffalo senior vice president of supply. "We're ready to be a part of this community."

Republican state Sen. Ron Richard, of Joplin, said economic development teams in Joplin and at the state level helped secure the pet food company's investment.

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Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com

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