A PET food manufacturer is promising a big jobs boost for Howlong.
The Cool Off group, which produces meat and dried treats for pets, plans to add another 60 jobs to its staff of 180.
The move is linked to the expansion of the Howlong Industrial Estate with the release of 16 blocks near the Cool Off plant.
Cool Off will seek federal government funding, via the Building Better Regions Fund, to defray the $13 million cost of what would be the fourth upgrade of the factory since it opened in 2000.
Cool Off chief financial officer Andrew Kearney said as well as 60 jobs at his business, the growth of the estate could result in 40 to 50 jobs.
He said VK Logic Engineering and Killen Trucking, which generate 90 per cent of their business through Cool Off, would expand with the transport company to fully relocate from Bendigo.
“There’s export demand for pet food, it’s a very fast growing segment of the food market,” Mr Kearney said.
“We’ve gone from no exports at all in the last five years to it being well over half of our business.”
Cool Off’s plan follows a bid for a Cleanaway compost plant to be built at Howlong.
That project has drawn ire, with the Howlong Community Committee upset at environmental effects.
But committee chairman Ken Walton welcomes Cool Off’s plan.
“They’re doing a significant investment in there that looks like they will double the jobs in town and also we believe their EPA approach is far different to that of Cleanaway,” Mr Walton said.
Mr Walton said when strong odours had emanated from Cool Off there had been prompt action.
Federation Council administrator Mike Eden said he welcomed the plan but was bemused by the committee’s reaction.
“I’m shocked and happily surprised they’re going to support a state-of-the-art composting facility,” he said.
Mr Kearney rejected the comparison with Cleanaway.
“Our business is all about keeping things fresh and frozen, it’s a very different proposition to a composting facility,” Mr Kearney said.
Cool Off is keen to have community feedback on its plan and has set up a survey on its website.
Mr Kearney said it planned to incorporate responses in the application for government funding.
Mr Eden said while he was supportive, issues of odour, transport, leachate and disposal of grey water would need to be assessed.
If the government grant is approved it is hoped the first sod of the expansion will be turned in September.
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