AURELIUS — One year after breaking ground in the town of Aurelius, a $12-million, 60,000-square-foot facility has officially opened its doors in Cayuga County. 

Tucked away on Eagle Drive across from the Cayuga Milk Ingredients  plant, Grober Nutrition LLC has begun operations in the Cayuga County Industrial Park, processing milk replacers — baby animal formula — for the local and national dairy industry. 

The company is a spin-off of the Grober Group, a family business that was born as an animal milk replacer manufacturer in Canada over 40 years ago. But as the group progressed into meat processing and animal production, Grober grew too big for its home in Cambridge, Ontario, and began branching out into the United States. 

Jurian Bartelse, the vice president at Grober Nutrition, said the company started to explore more opportunities in the U.S. a few years ago when the group became interested in the yogurt industry. 

"We were looking for a bigger presence in the U.S. and we were interested in the Greek yogurt byproduct called acid whey," he said. "New York, of course, is the yogurt capital and it became a very attractive site for us." 

But as it turned out, there was something better than yogurt byproduct in Cayuga County. 

While searching for possible plant locations in New York, Grober connected with CMI in Aurelius, where Bartelse said they discovered a milk permeate perfect for milk replacers. And in November 2015, Grober Nutrition began construction on a new plant across the street from CMI. 

"I think this business park here is kind of becoming Dairy Lane, if you will," Bartelse said, laughing. "It's all thanks to the dairy industry in the area. ... You're surrounded by dairy every direction you look and we felt we had a captive audience as far as our finished goods."

The new plant is specialized in that it has three pieces of equipment: an evaporator, a dryer and a blender. The evaporator allows the group to concentrate diluted products, such as excess fluid milk that is being dumped in the marketplace. Once evaporated, those products can then be placed in the dryer to create a raw material or ingredient that will be blended into a milk replacer. 

"What we plan to do is bring over that one ingredient from CMI and we're going to mix that with oils and fats," Bartelse said. "Then that blend will become a fat-filled powder that acts as an energy source in our milk replacer."

The dry blend is already up and running, allowing the group to beginning blending and distributing several different animal milk replacers. The evaporator and dryer, on the other hand, should come online next month. 

Bartelse said the company has begun interviewing for a handful of positions, looking for people to operate the equipment as well as sales and administrative staff. 

"So far we've created three or four jobs, but we anticipate we will create 45 jobs in the next few years," he said. "That's the goal between sales staff, plant staff, office admin, accounting ... all the different functions we need to satisfy here.

"Our plan is to become good neighbors and good stewards to the community and to employ up to 45 local residents here," Bartelse added.

Those jobs will likely be posted on LinkedIn and Indeed over the next few months. However, Bartelse said anyone interested in applying or learning more about the positions can stop by the plant at 20 Eagle Dr. or contact him at (315) 604-4400 or pjbartelse@grober.com

"I think this is another great opportunity to show what this area, Auburn, has to offer," he said. 

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Staff writer Megan Blarr can be reached at (315) 282-2282 or megan.blarr@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @CitizenBlarr.