Walmart announces $350 million Robinson milk processing plant

Walmart announced Thursday it will inject $350 million into the local economy by building a massive milk processing and bottling plant near Interstate 35 and Highway 6 in Robinson. The factory will employ approximately 400 people, earning an average of $60,000 per year, and will be the first tenant of the Robinson Business Park.

Construction on the 310,000-square-foot factory will begin next month and is scheduled for completion in 2026, Walmart officials said. A 15-year deal providing tax breaks for personal property is in the works, but details were not announced Thursday.

A Walmart milk processing and bottling plant that supplies stores in several states will become the first presence in the Robinson Industrial Park at I-35 and Loop 340. A road completed last year provides access to the park built by the Waco Industrial Foundation .

Rod Aydelotte, Tribune-Herald

A packed house at Robinson City Hall celebrated the news that Waco’s suburban neighbor beat out two other locations in Texas and one in Oklahoma to win Walmart’s endorsement. The retailer is taking on more production tasks to meet demand and fill service gaps, company officials said. The Robinson plant will be Walmart’s third dairy plant, joining one opening next year in Valdosta, Georgia, and one opening in 2018 in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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It turned out to be a years-long endeavor involving the city of Robinson, McLennan County, the Waco Industrial Foundation and the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce. Robinson City Manager Craig Lemin said the city went through a rigorous selection process. Every time he thought the city had answered the last question, Walmart asked a few more.

But the Walmart name has a cache that benefits the Robinson Industrial Park, Lemin said. He said there are still nearly 500 acres available of the 630 acres collected by the Waco Industrial Foundation, and he believes Walmart’s commitment will bring others to the table. He and Seth Morris, vice president of economic development for the Greater Waco Chamber, confirmed that an announcement regarding the business park is still pending.

“When I worked in Azle, we couldn’t get any interest from the industry,” Lemin said of the Parker County community west of Fort Worth. “But when the Walmart Supercenter arrived, I started getting calls every week.”

Robinson Walmart Milk

A rendering presented with Thursday’s announcement shows an aerial view of the Walmart milk processing plant planned for Robinson.

Rod Aydelotte, Tribune-Herald

The Robinson plant will process and bottle several types of milk, including gallons, half-gallons, whole, 2%, 1%, skim and 1% chocolate, for sale in approximately 750 Walmart and Sam’s Club stores across the South, including Texas , Oklahoma, Louisiana, and parts of Arkansas and Mississippi, according to a Walmart news release.

The facility will process raw milk sourced primarily from Texas dairy farmers. The finished products will be sold under Walmart’s Great Value and Member’s Mark brands.

About 160 trucks will enter or leave the plant each day, bringing in raw milk or delivering bottled products to Walmart retailers, said Adam Bradley, Walmart’s senior director of business development. He said Robinson’s presence on Interstate 35 and Loop 340, also known as Highway 6, was a critical consideration. Officials said truck drivers will fill about 100 jobs the plant creates.

Robinson Walmart Milk

Robinson Mayor Bert Echterling said Walmart’s announcement is unprecedented in terms of value for Robinson.

Rod Aydelotte, Tribune-Herald

During Thursday’s announcement, Robinson Mayor Bert Echterling left out all the off-the-cuff comments he jokingly said he is known for and did the best he could offer.

“Today marks a momentous occasion as we welcome Walmart, a pioneering industry leader, to our community,” Echterling said. “This monumental investment is the first of its kind in both size and value and heralds a transformative era for Robinson. Walmart’s decision to plant roots here is a testament to the strength of our local economy, the dedication of our workforce and the strategic benefits our city offers.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott intervened with a press release congratulating Robinson and the state, saying, “World-renowned companies like Walmart continue to choose Texas for our unparalleled business climate, lower operating costs and highly skilled, diverse and growing workforce.”

Robinson Walmart Milk

McLennan County Judge Scott Felton said Walmart’s announcement Thursday is another factor that cements the area’s status as a hotbed for food processing and distribution.

Rod Aydelotte, Tribune-Herald

McLennan County Judge Scott Felton said Central Texas has become a hotbed of food processing and distribution, with Walmart another example.

Walmart will build its 310,000-square-foot factory on about 80 acres. The land was owned by the Waco Industrial Foundation and is located in Robinson, the foundation that made it available to Robinson in 2013 for commercial and industrial development. The Robinson Business Park originally covered more than 600 hectares, but the purchase by Walmart and the takeover of about 12 hectares by another, yet unidentified user, has reduced the area to about 500 hectares, said Robinson’s Lemin, a major player in the Walmart negotiations.

Lemin said Robinson wanted to hit a home run with his anchor tenant, and he believes Walmart fits that description. He said companies admire Walmart’s commitment to due diligence in choosing locations and use its presence as a reference point when selecting one location over another.

Lemin said the city has committed to spending $5.2 million to complete a road connecting Interstate 35 and Greig Drive and extend a sewer line to the business park as it prepares for Walmart’s arrival . He said the city also plans to build a 1,400-foot-long dirt road that vehicles can drive on during construction. The money captured in a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone formed in 2019 can be used to purchase materials for the temporary roadway. The city, with funding from the provincial and industrial foundation, completed a project last year to build about half of the permanent road.

Walmart’s Bradley said several factors gave Robinson an edge over other contenders. He cited Waco’s commitment to helping Robinson with its infrastructure goals. Land prices in the Robinson Business Park “were competitive enough,” and Walmart was confident the local market could meet the demand for workers. He said the dairy will rely heavily on automation and the workforce must have the necessary know-how.

Robinson Walmart Milk

Adam Bradley, Walmart’s senior director of business development, said the Robinson creamery will see about 160 trucks arrive or depart daily.

Rod Aydelotte, Tribune-Herald

Kris Collins, the Greater Waco Chamber’s chief recruiter, said Texas State Technical College, McLennan Community College and Baylor University make an impressive training team. She said The Worksite, a specialized training center supported by TSTC and financially supported by Waco and McLennan County, could also address the training challenge posed by the creamery. Construction of The Worksite started last year and it is expected to open early next year.

Bradley said the plant will receive raw milk from several sources, including dairies in and around Stephenville, the Texas Panhandle and just outside Dallas-Fort Worth. He said in an interview that Walmart welcomes a relationship with dairy cooperatives and independent milk producers.

K. Paul Holt, president and CEO of the local office of Associated General Contractors of America, said Walmart’s announcement offers good news on two fronts: Associated General Contractors members can see work on the $350 million project, and local dairies can benefit from higher demand and lower transport costs.

“Walmart has crews following it in building supercenters. They’re building so many, they’re getting pretty fast,” Holt said. “But a dairy factory is not a super centre. It’s different enough that we can see some activity.”

Walmart milk robinson

A rendering shows a potential appearance of Walmart’s Robinson milk processing and bottling plant.

Walmart, provided

The Waco Industrial Foundation does not disclose land prices, said Collins of the Waco chamber, so what it charged Walmart was not disclosed.

Land in the Robinson Business Park has appeared on Loopnet, a real estate site. Prices per acre ranged from $151,899 to $217,642, or from $3.50 to $5 per square meter, depending on lot size; suitability for industrial, commercial or mixed use; and visibility and accessibility from Interstate 35 and Highway 60. These prices were stated as negotiable and did not necessarily reflect the figures presented to Walmart during calls.

Collins said the stimulus package Walmart is pushing includes a 15-year personal property grant involving Robinson and McLennan County. She did not provide details, but said Walmart would pay the property taxes annually and then qualify for rebates. Lemin said the Robinson City Council will finalize its package Tuesday.

TheStreet’s JD Durkin brings you the day’s biggest news, including Walmart giving its store managers a raise for the first time in more than a decade.

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Robinson Walmart Milk

Robinson will soon be home to a regional Walmart milk processing and bottling plant.

Rod Aydelotte, Tribune-Herald

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