For a long time, I’ve championed the impact of the I-29/1-90 corridor on southwest Minnesota and our greater rural region. This week, news from Brookings, S.D., highlights a perfect example of its significance.
The Brookings City Council approved a development agreement Tuesday with Bel Brands USA to locate a $120 million manufacturing facility in Brookings. Bel Brands is the manufacturer of Mini Babybel and The Laughing Cow Cheese Brands, as well as other natural and gourmet cheese products. Read the news release for full details about the company and project.
Bel Brands USA is headquartered in Chicago and a subsidiary of a global, Paris-based company. They currently have two production facilities located in Kentucky and Wisconsin, and when looking for a new location, Iowa, Idaho, Michigan and South Dakota were under consideration. Their President and CEO Lance Chambers noted the “hard-working Midwestern values” as one of the factors to selecting Brookings.
I couldn’t agree more. With an economic history deeply rooted in agriculture and people with values and work ethic to match, our rural region is an absolutely ideal spot for this type of business expansion. And, it’s no coincidence that this 170,000 square-foot facility will be located on 48 acres near the I-29 corridor.
So what does this news mean for us? The estimated economic impact of a fully operational plant is $500 million annually. It also means that our friends across the border will be filling 200 positions by 2014 with the potential to create up to 400 jobs in a later project phase in the next four to five years.
Southwest Minnesota business leaders that I’ve connected with this week are very optimistic about the opportunities this presents. Here are a few of the comments shared:
- “This is good for the region. This probably has a great deal to do with the collective benefits of low taxation, public private partnerships, excellent SDSU dairy program, work force, etc.”
- “Bel Brands is a good customer…I hope this will leader to more opportunity for both companies in the future.”
- “Very exciting for our area. Confirms my belief that agriculture is the mainstay of our business climate…”
- “Could affect our labor force numbers. I did appreciate the connection with SDSU and I-29 corridor.”
What’s your reaction to this news? Post a comment to share here, or contact me at [email protected].