BROOKINGS (AP) — The South Dakota city of Brookings is getting a $100 million cheese plant that could eventually employ up to 400 workers.
Chicago-based Bel Brands USA on Tuesday said it plans to begin construction this summer on its third cheese plant in the United States. The company also considered sites in Iowa, Idaho and Michigan for the plant to complement existing facilities in Wisconsin and Kentucky.
The company said it will invest about $100 million in the plant that will employ 200 people initially and could mean up to 400 jobs within three years of becoming fully operational in 2014. It will be a 70,000 square-foot manufacturing facility The plant also will boost the dairy industry, requiring milk from an estimated 13,000 cows each day, The Brookings Register reported. Brookings County is the leading dairy producer in the state, with 30,000 milk cows, and Brookings Economic Development Corp. Director Al Heuton said the local production can meet the needs of the Bel Brands plant, though he would not be surprised to see some industry expansion.
Bel Brands USA is a subsidiary of Paris-based Fromageries Bel, which has plants in 22 countries. Gov. Dennis Daugaard said in a statement that he was ‘‘thrilled to
welcome Bel Brands to South Dakota.’’ Two other production facilities in the U.S. are located in Leitchfield, Ky., and Little Chute, Wis.
‘‘The impact of this project goes beyond the creation of up to 400 jobs. It goes beyond the estimated annual $500 million economic impact once the plant is fully operational. And it goes beyond the opportunity for our dairy operations to expand both capacity and market share,’’ Daugaard said. ‘‘Having an internationally respected company like Bel Brands as our newest corporate citizen tells the world that South Dakota is open and ready for business from anywhere around the globe.’’
Brookings is providing Bel Brands with a 48-acre industrial site and has authorized $7 million in bonds to finance improvements there, The Brookings Register reported. The city is investing a total of nearly $12 million into the project that officials say will give a huge boost to the local economy.
‘‘Our return on investment will be nearly $1,000 for every dollar we put in,’’ Heuton said.
Bel Brands USA has more than doubled in size over the past four years. Three of the Company's key brands: Mini Babybel, The Laughing Cow and Boursin have fuelled much of the growth. Mini Babybel, which represents close to one-third of Bel Brands' U.S. sales, has almost tripled in size with consistent 25+ percent growth. To date, sales of Mini Babybel in the U.S. total 17 million pounds (8,000 metric tons). To meet the current demand, the company now imports more than 50 percent of the Mini Babybel business. Bel's goal is to attain a sales volume of 22 million pounds or 10,000 tons (US) by next year.
The new manufacturing plant will be built on a parcel of land along 32nd Avenue near the I-29 corridor. Plant construction is planned in two phases. The Company will break ground on the first phase this summer. Bel Brands expects to hire around 200 employees when the first phase of the plant becomes fully operational by 2014. Phase 1 of the project will have a production capacity of approximately 22 million pounds or 10,000 metric tons. The second phase of the plant, which is contingent on anticipated increased market demands, is envisioned to be built in 2016-2017 and will bring another 200 jobs to the area.
"We wish to thank Governor Daugaard, the Governor's Office of Economic Development team, the Brookings Economic Development team, Mayor Reed and the city of Brookings for their tireless effort in helping us select Brookings as the site for our new plant. We are excited to become a part of the Brookings community and we look forward to providing new opportunities for economic growth and employment in the area," adds Chambers.
"Brookings is excited that Bel Brands has selected our community to construct a state-of-the-art production facility", said Mayor Tim Reed. "Bel Brands is an innovative international company and an excellent fit within our Brookings area economic growth strategy. This project will complement our efforts to build upon regional advantages, such as the SDSU Dairy Science program, while adding value and creating new economic opportunities for regional agricultural producers."
Francine Moudry, previously Director of Operations for the Leitchfield plant, was recently appointed Project Director to lead the planning and construction of the new Brookings manufacturing facility. Moudry will be relocating to the Brookings area in early 2012.