Lanco Pennland’s Hancock plant receives state economic development grant to buy equipment

Wastewater pre-treatment system will let company meet new MDE rules

by Kate Shunney

Lanco Pennland’ s plans to upgrade their wastewater treatment systems received one of 26 economic development grants from the Senator George C. Edwards Fund late last month.

The Senator George C. Edwards Fund, a fund for economic development initiatives in Washington, Allegany, and Garrett counties in Western Maryland, last Wednesday, May 31 announced that 26 economic development projects across the three counties will receive funding totaling $19,866,223 or approximately $6,600,000 per county.

Managed by the 11-member Western Maryland Economic Future Investment Board, the Fund received 100 applications, said state officials.

“Each board member reviewed all the applications, and the county commissioners from each county ranked the projects within their jurisdictions. The ranked projects were presented to the board, which had the final vote,” said fund officials.

Grant agreements have been signed with the awardees, and the Tri-County Council for Western Maryland is presently coordinating the distribution of funds.

Lanco Pennland plant in Hancock. photo by Geoff Fox

Lanco Pennland was approved for a grant of $1,161,600 to purchase and install a system that will pretreat whey water – a byproduct of the cheesemaking process – to lower its phosphorus levels.

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) recently changed their discharge permit requirements, dropping the levels of phosphorous that are allowed in the whey water if it is to be sprayed on grass or fields as a method to discharge it.

Lanco Pennland has such a permit, and sprays some of the whey water on a 40-acre field on their Hancock property during certain months when it can evaporate, said Jonathan Horowitz, Director of Business and Economic Development of Washington County. Horowitz assisted the cheese company in seeking the grant funds for necessary upgrades to meet the MDE rules.

Horowitz said Lanco Pennland’ s long-term solution to the issue would be to hook onto Hancock’ s public wastewater system, which is scheduled to be upgraded and extended. That major infrastructure project has lagged in its timeline, making it necessary for the cheese company to invest in equipment to treat their own wastewater for now.

Lanco Pennland trucks some of the whey water byproduct into Pennsylvania for spraying there, but Horowitz said the cost of disposing of all of the byproduct by trucking it off-site would be too costly.

He said the company feared having to scale back jobs or closing if it couldn’t get the equipment to treat the whey water to meet the MDE discharge rules.

Lanco Pennland currently employs 140-160 people through their operations in Hancock, Horowitz said. The Edwards grant will let the company retain those jobs in the dairy supply chain, the plant and trucking services.

County Commissioner Wayne Keefer was instrumental in making the Hancock upgrade a priority project, said Horowitz. The county worked with Lanco Pennland general manager Kurt Williams and CFO Jan tenPas III to complete the grant request.

Retaining jobs in Hancock was a high priority for the county, said Horowitz.

The total value of funded projects from the Edwards fund is $178,492,323, which is leveraged by $19,866,223 from the Fund. The projects are expected to create over 600 direct, permanent jobs, not including temporary construction jobs or indirect job creation.

Other notable projects that received funding include a significant expansion of Beitzel Corporation’s HQ facility in Grantsville, where the company will construct a new field crew and fleet training and maintenance center; infrastructure funding to continue utility repairs at Fort Ritchie in Cascade; and redevelopment assistance for three downtown Cumberland buildings, including a facility that will host a partnership with Rainmaker Entertainment (DelFest) and Allegany College of Maryland, training a new generation in modern marketing and communication skills.

Board member and Fund namesake Senator George C. Edwards said, “I am very happy to see this fund support so many strong projects, which will have a tremendous impact on our communities. These investments in Western Maryland will create jobs and help attract new businesses, supporting and inspiring economic growth for years to come.”

Board Chair Andrew Sargent, from the Maryland Department of Commerce, added, “The Economic Future Investment Board worked hard to review all the applications and identify the projects that would have the greatest impact on the region. W e are excited to see these projects progress and are proud to have played a role in their success.”

New funding opportunities from The Senator George C. Edwards fund will be announced in the coming weeks on the Fund’s website,