BELOIT (WKOW) -- Frito Lay is now Green Tier certified, an honor reserved for Wisconsin's most environmentally responsible companies.
"As energy costs have gone up, good companies have figured out how to conserve energy," said Governor Jim Doyle. "As costs of raw materials have soared, good companies have figured out how can we reuse what we already have."
And Frito Lay is one of those companies, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.
In the past 5 years, the Beloit plant decreased its natural gas usage by 27%, decreased electricity use by 20%, and cut water consumption in half.
And by this winter, company leaders say they'll use excess heat from the exhaust stacks to warm the entire building.
"You may ask what are we going to do with all that heat in the summer months?" asked Michael Stahl, Frito Lay technical manager. "Well, there's absorption chilling technology that we're evaluating where we can take that heat and convert it to cool the entire facility during the summer months."
To recognize the green commitment, Governor Doyle is giving the company $2 million to help with an already planned $28 million expansion. The project is expected to preserve 500 jobs and create 24 new ones.
"It goes to show you that even though you grow and expand your business, you can continue sustainability, and reduce your emissions," Stahl said.
Frito Lay Beloit makes popular snack food brands like Lays Potato Chips and Doritos. Local farmers benefit as well -- 80 percent of the potatoes used come from Wisconsin.
City leaders say this kind of local connection is key to retaining jobs and keeping the business community thriving.
"We're a hub of the interstate system and the heart of the midwest -- that has served us well," said Sheila DeForest, who is on the Beloit City Council. "It also supports our local farmers, by having closer proximity to the products we're utilizing in the food processing plants."
Frito Lay's midwest vice president, Dave Reamsnyder, said those 500 jobs that will be preserved were never in danger of moving elsewhere.
He says the Beloit plant has high productivity and is financially successful.
More than 17 percent of people in Beloit are out of a job. That's the highest unemployment rate in the state.
E-mail Jeff Angileri -- email@example.com