New walls are going up again at the Hilmar Cheese Co. processing facility in Dalhart, Texas.

Barely 28 months after its first milk shipments arrived for processing, phase two of construction at the plant got underway January 14 when cranes lifted concrete wall sections into place to start a $100 million expansion project. Completion is expected late this year.

Included in the project is additional milk storage capacity, natural American-style cheese production lines, and increased production capacity of Hilmar's whey products.

"Ultimately, the addition will give us the ability to double capacity in Texas," said company CEO and President John Jeter. "We are installing emerging technology to increase our ability to meet our customers' changing needs."

The Dalhart plant opened ahead of schedule in September 2007 after a $100 million initial construction phase that took just 18 months to complete. At its groundbreaking ceremonies in March 2006, a milk processing capacity goal of 4.5 million pounds per day was forecast.

Strategically located in northwest Texas near the convergence of five states, the plant is able to easily access milk from four key milksheds:

• The Hereford/Muleshoe, Texas, area
• The Clovis/Portales, N.M., area
• The Roswell, N.M., area
• The Garden City/Dodge City, Kansas, area

Dalhart plant site manager David Ahlem said the expansion will create 50 new jobs.

Hilmar also operates a cheese and whey products plant in Hilmar, Calif., which is the largest single-site milk processing facility in the United States.