NAPI to reopen flour mill with new company

James Fenton
The Navajo Pride flour mill will resume operations soon after a yearlong shutdown.

FARMINGTON — After a yearlong shutdown to undergo renovations, the Navajo Pride flour mill will start up operations next month.

In a press release issued today, Navajo Agricultural Products Industry officials said the flour mill will be relaunched through a joint venture between the tribal agribusiness and a newly formed milling company called New Mexico Milling LLC, which will operate the flour mill.

Newly installed NAPI CEO Wilton Charley said the new venture will require hiring about 20 employees to operate the flour mill.

"The venture is the result of months of planning and negotiations to ensure that all issues were addressed and resolved,” Charley said in the release. "We are estimating about $1 million a year in wages to run and operate the mill. ... The joint venture will return an investment of 104 percent to (the flour mill).”

The NAPI board of directors approved the agreement on June 22.

“The venture will rely on the Navajo work force for staffing, and the milling will be conducted at the NAPI flour mill facility started in 2012,”  NAPI Board Chairman Lawrence Platero said in the release. “We are thrilled about rolling out this new venture. The facility has been inspected, evaluated and is ready for operation.”

The mill can produce flour in 2-, 5-, 10-, 25- and 50-pound bags and bulk quantities, as well as deliver custom blends of various bread, pancake and tortilla mixes, according to the release.

A sign for Navajo Agricultural Products Industry's flour mill is pictured Friday along N.M. Highway 371 south of Farmington.

New Mexico Milling CEO Bryan Ledgerwood said the tribal flour facility is a unique independent operation with a future for growth in an era dominated by corporate giants.

"This is a rare opportunity to operate an independent mill, during a time when the industry has seen continued consolidation into a select few large corporate millers," Ledgerwood said in a release. "As a result of the wheat sources in the area, we see many opportunities to create efficiencies and provide for long-term sustainable growth.”

Ousted NAPI CEO Tsosie Lewis told The Daily Times in an interview last year that the closure of the flour mill was prompted by increased expenses and falling sales. Some of the milling equipment was 30 or 40 years old, and replacement parts for some of them were no longer available.

The mill also suffered about $33,000 in losses when NAPI issued a voluntary recall for its bleached, all-purpose flour because of a Salmonella contamination scare. Testing failed to turn up any conclusive evidence of a contamination.

To staff the mill, the new NAPI and New Mexico Milling Co. officials will hold a job fair from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, July 28, at the Quality Center for Business at San Juan College, 5101 College Blvd. in Farmington. Job seekers should dress in business casual attire, bring a résumé and be prepared to interview at the event.

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James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621.