Schools, organizations support Evart's Dean Foods in writing

MECOSTA AND OSCEOLA COUNTIES – After hearing of the tremendous negative impact Meijer’s acquisition of a dairy facility could have on the Evart area, local organizations are showing their support for a longtime local business.

A group known as the Coalition of Champions, made up of officials from local organizations, proposed the idea of sending letters of support to the Dean Foods headquarters in Dallas,Tex. in hopes of encouraging administrators to discuss ways to keep the Evart facility open.

“We hope that by community members, businesses, economic development agencies (and others) writing these letters, (the effort) will send a strong message to Liberty Dairy that we value their presence in Evart,” said Michelle Herron, Business Services Director at Michigan Works.

Dean Foods - Liberty Dairy currently is the second largest employer in Osceola County, employing 170 full-time workers, plus an additional 20 who work in positions associated with the plant such as milk hauling truck drivers and truck rental company employees, according to Michigan Works.

The milk contract with Meijer made up around 90 percent of Dean’s business, and the retail chain’s operation of a new, self-owned dairy facility will mean that business will be taken from the Evart plant.

In a statement issued March 30, Dean Foods representatives said they could not speculate on the future of their Evart plant, but the company remains focused on providing the best products and winning new businesses to maintain operations at each of its plants. Since then, no new statements have been issued.

More than 70 organizations in Mecosta and Osceola counties have been contacted about writing the letters, including Osceola County Board of Commissioners, Mecosta County Chamber of Commerce, the offices of local politicians as well as school districts and other vested parties.

“We wanted to all go on record supporting the plant and say it would have a dire effect on the county if they were to close that plant,” said Dave Brooks, chairman of the Osceola County Board of Commissioners.

The board decided to draft a letter at their meeting on May 15 after being contacted by the coalition.

“We want them to know there is a lot of support up here and it’s a great work force,” Brooks said. “We all said, ‘Lets not wait until (the plant) closes and think, gosh, we wish we would have done something.’”

Though one letter may not get the corporation’s attention, organizers hope many letters will. Writers are encouraged to draft unique letters discussing why the Evart dairy is important to them personally.

“We want it to be a strong positive message and just relay to the corporate office how important Dean Foods Liberty Dairy is to our area,” Herron said. “They’ve been here for 50 plus years and we’d like to keep them for another 50 years.”

Individuals wishing to show support for Dean Foods by sending a letter of support, can send letters to Dean Foods Company, Attn: Gregg Engles, CEO, 2711 N. Haskell Ave., Suite 3400, Dallas, TX 75204.

To keep track of letters sent, the group asks that copies of each letter be faxed to Herron at (231) 796-8316.

For help with a list of talking points to be incorporated into the letter or for more information, contact Herron at (231) 660-0253.