ST. CLOUD - GNP Company has started the first phase of a two-phase expansion plan for its Cold Spring plant.

The first phase of expansion, which started earlier this month, is expected to cost about $35 million. It includes a building addition and installing new equipment to add capacity to the Cold Spring plant's processing area.

The expansion will also install new technology and equipment to further automate processes. GNP President Steve Jurek says the expansion is expected to make the Cold Spring facility one of the most automated meat processing plants in North America.

Plans for a second phase are in development. This phase may include another building addition and more new technology. Jurek says they want to complete the first phase before moving forward with further developments.

In preparation for the first phase of expansion, GNP Company has completed or started several other projects. GNP has purchased a building in Sauk Rapids for future hatchery growth to support increased production, expanded its truck shop for St. Cloud operations and developed plans to add up to 72 new barns in the St. Cloud area.