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Published January 31, 2012, 05:11 PM

Bel Brands USA to build cheese plant in SD

BROOKINGS, S.D. — The South Dakota city of Brookings is getting a $100 million cheese plant that could eventually employ up to 400 workers.

By: Associated Press, Associated Press

BROOKINGS, S.D. — 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 robust South Dakota dairy industry and its hardworking Midwestern values make Brookings an ideal location for our new plant,” Lance Chambers, President and CEO of Bel Brands USA, said in a statement. “Bel Brands has experienced significant growth over the past few years, and this new plant is essential to expanding our production capacity to meet the growing demand for our Mini Babybel cheeses.”

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.

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.”

“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.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.