Bel Brands USA, the maker of Mini Babybel and The Laughing Cow cheese has begun hiring its first wave of production employees for the new Brookings facility.
Officials say construction of the new plant, located on the east side of Brookings along Interstate 29, is on track to be ready for production next July and product testing could begin as early as March.
For many college seniors, finding a job can be stressful after graduation, but students in the Dairy Science Department at South Dakota State University can finish up their degree with their minds at ease. It's not often that earning a degree guarantees you 100 percent job placement.
"Coming through the program there's always multiple offers, so unlike most people who are out hoping to find a job, my tough decision is which job to take. So it's a blessing." SDSU senior Joshua Oakley said.
Although Oakley was an undecided major as a freshman, it didn't take long for him to find his niche.
"I loved it. I loved every minute of it. All the classes, working in the dairy plant and the internships," Oakley said.
Oakley will be sharing his expertise in the dairy industry at the Bel Brands production facility in Brookings.
"When I heard they were coming to town, I was really excited and I think it will be a great connection in the future between the school and the company," Oakley said.
Professors in the Dairy Science Department at SDSU say the collaboration with the new cheese plant will create several hands-on learning experiences, as well as the possibility of future employment.
"There are many new producers that have come into the state, so the industry here has really grown and along with it come opportunities. And so what Bel has done, for instance, they have already hired I believe seven or eight of our graduates with various levels of experience," Department Head/ Professor in Dairy Products Processing at SDSU Vikram Mistry said.
"The collaboration with SDSU has been exceptional. We are finding not only fantastic employees but very skilled employees," Project Manager for Bel Brands USA Francine Moudry said.
Moudry says the company is investing more than $150 million in the new Brookings facility.
"We went to nine different states and it took us 11 months. Why Brookings? Three reasons, first SDSU, it's a great place to live and third the people, Moudry said.
The plant is 170,000 square feet and two levels. By the end of next year, it will employ 275 people and once production begins in the summer of 2014, they will produce over 1.5 million Mini Baby Bell Cheese wedges.
"We need to make sure that every product we produce will be done at the highest possible quality and therefore we are going to start testing in two weeks," Moudry said.
Once opened, the plant will operate 24/7, year-round. Over the past year, U.S. sales of Mini Babybel are up nearly 25 percent. In order to keep up with demand, the company currently imports a significant amount of Mini Babybel Cheese sold in the U.S. from France. That is why this new Brookings facility is not only easing the job search stress for graduates, it will also ease the challenges of meeting the demand for its products.
Over the past year, the company has hired 28 employees for managerial and supervisory positions. Several new employees have returned to the Brookings area from out of state.
If you're interested in employment with Bel Brands USA they will be conducting interview starting the beginning of January.