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Furry Favorites in East Central Indiana

The region develops as a hub for pet food manufacturing.

By Heather Cherry on May 15, 2023

Dog food
Istock.com/Jaromir Chalabala

East Central Indiana is quickly becoming a pet food capital, home to three – soon to be four – pet food manufacturers.

Naturally Recycled Proteins (NPR), Blue Buffalo and Hill’s Pet Nutrition all have a presence in the area. In the animal feed realm, Purina and ShaLee Oils also have locations in the region.

Hill’s Pet Nutrition invested $17.5 million to expand its production facility in Wayne County. Most recently, Diamond Pet Foods invested nearly $260 million in a new facility in Rush County. And Blue Buffalo also announced a $200 million expansion that will create up to 60 new jobs by the end of 2024.

Megan Johnson, plant manager at Blue Buffalo, says pet food manufacturers are popping up throughout East Central Indiana largely because of access to high-quality, low-cost suppliers and a skilled workforce.

Blue Buffalo
Nathan Lambrecht

A Natural Fit

“Richmond was a natural fit to be close to the agriculture availability that Indiana and surrounding states offer,” Johnson says. “We also have deeply rooted partnerships with Wayne County and the City of Richmond that helped us truly partner and meet our needs for future growth potential.”

For example, Blue Buffalo partnered with the Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce to offer a creative solution to recruiting.

“About a year ago, we stepped into an exciting opportunity for high school seniors,” Johnson says. “We created a ‘signing day’ – like athletics signing day – to celebrate those who decided to join our herd at Blue Buffalo.”

And despite the area becoming a pet food capital, competition isn’t a concern because multiple pet food manufacturers are needed to support the increase in demand.

“The puppy and kitten pet population has exploded in the United States since the pandemic. There are more dogs and cats in this country than there are children under the age of 18. The fur babies we love need the best pet food possible,” Johnson says. “And our philosophy at Blue Buffalo is that rising waters lift all boats. We believe there is enough space in the community for all our friends in the pet food manufacturing business.”

From a Blue Buffalo perspective, they operate a 450,000-square-foot plant in Richmond and manufacture food for nearly 100 different diets to ensure all pets’ specific needs are met.

“We are not a one-size-fits-all brand. Our food scientists format diets so they are available to the right pet at the right time,” Johnson says.

Blue Buffalo
Nathan Lambrecht

Perfect Place for Pet Owners

Pets often feel like part of our family, and in East Central Indiana, residents experience the best of both worlds, living somewhere that is both pet and family friendly.

Johnson is a Richmond transplant. And having moved six times in 10 years, out of all those locations, she says East Central Indiana is by far the most welcoming.

“The community wants you to be invested in the success of what’s being built here,” Johnson says. “It was important to me to relocate my family to a community that I can serve in proximity to Blue Buffalo. This the fastest I’ve ever felt a part of the community.”

The welcoming community is not short on activities for families and their pets.

“My family, including two young boys, never long for things to do. From Glen Miller Park offering splash pads and playgrounds to fishing ponds, golf courses, picnic areas and an outdoor amphitheater to downtown events and a farmer’s market, we are close to everything,” Johnson says. “If you can’t find it here, it’s available in our backyard in neighboring areas of Indiana and Ohio. We’re just an hour to Indianapolis and not far from Cincinnati.”

Pets aren’t excluded from the festivities – the Historic Richmond Depot District and Blue Buffalo hosted a Dog’s Night Out, which featured a costume parade and paw painting.

“Dog’s Night Out is just one example of how businesses and the community band together to support the greater good,” Johnson says. “That community feel doesn’t exist in many places. East Central Indiana, especially Wayne County, offers the best of both worlds – a small city setting but with a large city feel.”

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Array ( )
Array ( )
Array ( [0] => 160571 [1] => 160549 [2] => 154925 [3] => 111972 [4] => 111961 [5] => 111954 [6] => 157090 [7] => 79922 )

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