GFDA study finds Great Falls has lowest operating costs for food processing

The Great Falls Development Authority commissioned a study that was recently released and found that Great Falls is the least expensive market to operate a food processing plant based on a review of 25 U.S. cities.

The study was conducted by The Boyd Company, a site selection firm based in Princeton, N.J.

The company surveyed 25 metro areas with high concentrations of food processing companies that receive raw materials from the Great Falls region including Boston, Mass.; Newark, N.J.; Fairfield, Calif; Seattle, Wash; San Diego, Calif; Los Angeles, Calif; Omaha, Neb.; Portland, Maine; Hersey/Lebanon, Penn.; Atlanta, Ga. and Boise, Idaho.

The company found that the annual operating costs for a 325-person food processing plant in Great Falls are 25 percent than in Boston, the most expensive metro.

[READ: The full cost comparison study]

“Our analysis focused on geographically variable cost elements considered to be most pivotal within the corporate site selection process,” said John Boyd, principal, The Boyd Company. “Great Falls came out on top because of its low land and construction costs, and its proximity to raw materials including livestock, wheat, nuts and seeds.”

Brett Doney, GFDA director, said the agency will use the study as a recruitment tool to encourage other developers to consider the Great Falls area. Doney said GFDA has been targeting food and agriculture processing developments since those play to the region’s strengths. His team is headed to the International Food Technologists expo in Chicago next month and Doney said the study will help attract potential development.

Last year, GFDA commissioned eight different studies that focused on agricultural products the region produced or could produce. Doney said they used a food industry consultant from Fargo and focused on the top eight niches GFDA wanted to pursue, all of which were focused on grains and pulse crops. Doney said none of the studies focused on meat processing since so many other studies had already been done in the state.

The case studies included three on pulse crops, including pulse fractionation, pulse snacks, pulse dips and spreads; the others included specialty malting, specialty pasta, barley ingredients, wheat ingredients and sprouted grains, Doney said.

GFDA has focused on agricultural products grown in the region and target where there are market opportunities, Doney said.

“It’s no use targeting things where there’s not a growing market,” he said.

The Great Falls region is an emerging destination for food processing plants with a recent investment of $20 million by Montana Specialty Mills on a new processing center. Other food processing companies in the region include Pasta Montana which recently invested $6.5 million in a line expansion; Montana Eggs which recently opened a new $9 million facility; Montana Milling; General Mills; CHS Nutrition and others.

Pasta Montana opens $6.5 million processing line in Great Falls

“Selecting Great Falls as the location for our food processing plant gave us greater control over the cost and the quality of our raw ingredients. The region’s low cost-of-living and low energy prices have provided a further competitive advantage, allowing us to plow funds back into quality improvements. The value that we offer by combining lower prices with superior quality has driven increased market share and stronger financials,” Dan Bateman, executive VP and CFO of Pasta Montana, said in a release.

Montana Specialty Mills breaks ground in AgriTech Park

Great Falls was recently named by the Montana Department of Agriculture as one of the state’s four Food & Ag Development Centers. The classification recognizes Great Falls’ ability to attract target niches in food and agricultural processing that support the creation of high wage jobs and expand the region’s tax base.

County reconsiders Montana Eggs tax abatement, approves request

“The Boyd survey reaffirms our belief that the Great Falls region is one of North America’s strongest communities for food processing operations,” says Jolene Schalper, vice president, GFDA. “With easy access to interstate and rail corridors, in addition to the low cost of natural ingredients and products, the Great Falls region has a lot to offer food processors.”

The full results from The Boyd Company’s Cost Comparison Survey are listed below from most to least expensive.

  1. Boston, Mass.
  2. Newark, N.J.
  3. Fairfield, Calif.
  4. Seattle, Wash.
  5. San Diego, Calif.
  6. Los Angeles, Calif.
  7. Minneapolis, Minn.
  8. Chicago, Ill.
  9. Stockton, Calif.
  10. Modesto, Calif.
  11. Bakersfield, Calif.
  12. Fresno, Calif.
  13. Portland, Oregon
  14. Denver, Colo.
  15. Rochester, N.Y.
  16. St. Louis, Mo.
  17. Portland, Maine
  18. Hershey/Lebanon, Penn.
  19. Atlanta, Ga.
  20. Cincinnati, Ohio
  21. Dallas, Texas
  22. Buffalo, N.Y.
  23. Omaha, Neb.
  24. Boise, Idaho
  25. Great Falls, Mont.