Work will soon get underway on a new cheese plant that will bring millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs to Brookings.
Officials broke ground Thursday at the Bel Brands USA plant.
Bite-sized snacks called Mini Babybel cheese wheels will help spin the economic engine for the Brookings area economy.
"I think Brookings is a hidden gem. It just grows on you," Bel Brands USA President & CEO Lance Chamber said.
Bel Brands $100 million plant will be located just down the road from the South Dakota State University campus where students will have a high-tech research role in the cheese making process.
"If you think about it, a cheese plant, it's just a very sophisticated fermentation, biological manufacturing process with very sophisticated technology," SDSU President David Chicoine said.
It takes a lot of cows to make cheese like this. So the South Dakota Department of Agriculture hopes dairy farmers, who were hurt in recent years by low milk prices, will be willing to boost their herds to meet the added demand.
"Right now, we're in a rebuilding phase after 2009 when we got caught with way to many cows, so that's why we need the extra processing," South Dakota Agriculture Secretary Walt Bones said.
Now that the plant is shovel ready, Bel Brands will be able make one-and-a-half million Mini Babybels a day when it's up and running in two years.
The state of South Dakota is also providing workforce training grants that will allow Bel Brands to offer internships for SDSU students.