Couple reopening ag business on east side of Danville

Couple reopening ag business on east side of Danville

DANVILLE — A Paris couple is gearing up to reopen a successful specialty agriculture business in Danville's east industrial corridor next month.

HRW Inc., owned by former Danville residents Harry and Brenda Rothenberger, will be at 1850 E. Voorhees St. and will begin making a product used in feed for baby pigs, in late July. The production facility will be a $1.3 million investment and is expected to create up to 25 full-time jobs within its first year.

"We are very excited and happy to be coming to Danville, and we look forward to a long and prosperous business here," said Brenda Rothenberger, who along with her husband grew up in town and graduated from Danville High School. "We knew Danville had a need. We'd like to see it grow, and we're hoping to help contribute to that growth."

HRW Inc., which stands for Helping Restore Worth, will produce a high-quality milk replacement ingredient known as cheese meal. The company works with the three major marketers of milk replacer products, and its customer base will include manufacturers of pre-mix for baby pig starters in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and South America.

The project is being funded through First Midwest Bank and the Small Business Administration. A $175,000 city of Danville Community Development Block Grant will assist with the initial purchase of product inventory.

"This project is a wonderful combination of new investment and job creation, a native son of the area coming back to invest in the community and a new addition to the wealth of value-added agricultural production that comes out of this agriculture-rich county," Vicki Haugen, Vermilion Advantage president and chief executive officer, said in a news release.

Harry Rothenberger, who worked in the animal feed industry for 28 years, launched the company in 1992 to research and develop new feed ingredients for animals that would be processed to optimize the nutritional values of the ingredients.

He noticed that a large amount of milk by-products were being land-spread and sent to landfills by cheese-producing companies.

"I saw an opportunity to create a business that would help the environment by utilizing the by-products that were considered waste and at the same time, provide a product to the pre-mix manufacturers of animal feed that was less costly and performed equally to the ingredient they were using," he said.

Currently, only five other companies in the world produce a similar milk replacement product, Harry Rothenberger said. However, he said, HRW's process "is superior in optimizing the nutritional values available in the ingredients because of their low-temperature technique."

The Rothenbergers ran HRW out of Paris, where Harry Rothenberger, who worked in the grocery business for several years, owned and operated a store. Production took place in plants in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Harry Rothenberger actually retired in 2005 and had no plans of returning to the business. However, he decided to reopen the operation after he was approached by former customers who said they were not able to get the quality product they needed.

"I immediately thought of Danville because of the agricultural industry here, the support available from Vermilion Advantage and the Danville (grant) funding and the opportunity to give back to the city and community where I have my roots," said Harry Rothenberger, who graduated from Danville High in 1962. His wife is a 1961 alumna. "We are very excited about this opportunity and look forward to returning to our hometown."

Officials are buying equipment and preparing the plant site, which last housed a trucking operation.

The plant will open with 15 hourly employees working one shift and six salaried employees and support staff. Officials expect to produce between 17 million and 20 million pounds of finished product in the first year of production, and 36 million pounds during the second year.

"Eventually, it will probably operate 24 hours a day," Brenda Rothenberger said, adding each shift that's added will create 15 more full-time jobs.

Brenda Rothenberger said the company is a family corporation. The couple's son, Dyke Rothenberger, who lives nearby in Indiana, is the plant manager; another son, Daryn Rothenberger, of Indianapolis, is the project engineer; and daughter, Denise Oakley, of Sioux City, Iowa, is a board member. She said she and her husband are considering moving back to Danville.


HRW Inc. is accepting applications for first-shift positions including supervisor, lab technician and production workers at and at the Illinois Department of Employment Security One Stop, at 407 N. Franklin St., Danville.

Beginning Monday, applications also may be picked up at the plant site at 1850 E. Voorhees St., Danville, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Applicants are asked to enter through the door on the west side of the plant.

Resumes are required for the supervisor and lab technician positions.