King Milling Co., the oldest continually operating business in Kent County, has announced a $42 million expansion that will build a new flour mill in Lowell and create new jobs.
The city of Lowell approved a 12-year, 50% tax abatement for the project at last night’s council meeting. In May, the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development approved a $250,000 Food and Agriculture Investment Program grant that will enable King Milling to increase capacity of the hard and soft wheat products it produces for customers who, in turn, make food products for some of the nation’s most popular consumer brands and restaurant chains.
Once operational at the end of 2023, the new 35,000-square-foot, six-floor mill at King Milling’s headquarters in downtown Lowell will produce 750,000 pounds of flour a day, enabling the company to produce more than 2.5 million pounds per day in its four mills on-site. The facility will include wheat storage bins, tempering bins, cleaning and sifting equipment, and finished flour bins.
Fueled by strong customer demand for King Milling’s premium flours, the expansion will bring the country’s most modern mill to West Michigan, enabling the company to add six new jobs in the first two years of operation. King Milling is working to finalize permits so it can break ground on the project this summer.
“King Milling is proud of our century-plus presence in the Lowell community and the tremendous growth we have experienced since our humble beginnings in 1890,” President Brian Doyle said. “This is the largest single investment we have made, and it will provide benefits to Michigan’s agriculture and food processing sectors for many years to come.
“This expansion is part of our commitment to being on the leading edge of milling technology and producing the highest-quality flour and wheat products for our customers here in Michigan and around the country.”
The company mills various kinds of wheat for a wide range of flours for bakers and food processors. It mills soft red, soft white, hard red winter, and hard red spring wheats, either individually or blended, and produces varieties of white flour, whole wheat flour, and wheat bran as well as its Super Kleaned Wheat and Ceres products.
King Milling’s Ceres line features wheat processed through a proprietary process developed in the 1960s that deactivates enzymes for a longer shelf life. While the majority of King Milling’s sales are sold in bulk to food processors, consumers can buy a few of the company’s branded flours at Gordon Food Service Stores, Heffron Farm Markets in Grand Rapids, and Red Barn Market in Lowell.
“King Milling Co. has been a cornerstone of our community for generations,” Lowell City Manager Mike Burns said. “Its iconic mills are instantly recognizable in Lowell. We are pleased the company has decided to expand its operations and add new jobs right here at home.”
The expansion and job creation project is supported by both the city of Lowell and the state of Michigan. Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's (MDARD) Food and Agriculture Investment Program grants are performance-based grants awarded to businesses looking to increase production space, expand services through a sustainable and scalability focus, create new good-paying jobs and help increase Michigan’s food and agriculture global footprint.
“Investing in local businesses like King Milling helps create good-paying jobs, supports local economies and fuels the continued growth of Michigan’s vital food and agriculture sector,” MDARD Director Gary McDowell said. “This project – made possible in part by MDARD’s Food and Agriculture Investment Program – underscores King Milling’s commitment to Michigan. They will be able to process more wheat locally, meet demand from bakers and cereal producers across the nation and create new opportunities for our wheat growers.”
King Milling is grateful for the financial commitment from the state of Michigan and the city of Lowell that will help make this project a reality, Executive Vice President Jim Doyle said.
“Through these partnerships and the hard work, commitment to quality and dedication of our many fine employees throughout our history, we are able to continue to grow our operations, hire more people and serve our customers every day,” he said.
The Right Place, which supported the company’s tax abatement application, praised its approval.
“We were pleased to assist and are excited the King Milling expansion is moving forward with support from the city of Lowell and the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development. This significant investment will ensure King Milling will continue to meet its growing customer demand and provide more great jobs.”
King Milling has been family owned and operated from its beginning on the banks of the Flat River and is now in the fourth and fifth generations of Doyle family ownership, with nearly 60 employees throughout its operations on West Main Street. In its early days, King Milling utilized a stone-grinding process to produce flour in a mill on each side of the Flat River.
Today, it operates three mills using a fully automated network of steel rolls to produce a variety of hard and soft wheat products, sourced and processed in accordance with the food industry’s highest health and safety standards, providing unparalleled service focused on each customer’s specific needs. The company was among the first mills in the country to fully automate operations.
When King Milling opened in 1890, Michigan had 700 flour mills. That number dropped to 534 by 1900, and 28 in 1958. Today, King Milling is one of only six remaining flour mills in the state.