New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball, joined by New York State Department of Labor (DOL) Commissioner Roberta Reardon, highlighted the State’s workforce and economic development efforts for New York’s dairy industry during a tour of the BelGioioso Cheese Manufacturing Plant in Schenectady County on Friday, June 17. BelGioioso Cheese, Inc., a leading specialty cheese manufacturer, built a new manufacturing plant in Glenville in 2019 that created over 50 jobs and is currently expanding its operations to include a newly renovated storage facility that will add ten jobs in Glenville. Today’s announcement comes during Dairy Month as the State highlights the dairy industry, which is the largest segment of New York’s agricultural sector.
Commissioner Ball said, “Dairy Month is a great time to promote the work of our Dairy Think Tank, which focuses on understanding the dairy industry’s workplace needs and devising strategies to help processors attract and retain great employees so that they can expand their processing capabilities. Our visit to BelGioioso’s plant during Dairy Month highlights a business that is doing it right, expanding their operations and adding new jobs in the Capital Region. I’m excited to continue partnering with industry leaders and with our fellow state agencies to ensure that New York dairy remains a pillar of our agricultural industry.”
Commissioner Reardon said, “The dairy industry does more than just power jobs, it is essential to the very health and nourishment of communities statewide. As part of the Dairy Think Tank, we are committed to exploring innovative avenues to enhance this critical industry and support the development of this vital workforce.”
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, “The Dairy Think Tank is a great example of how New York State is operating strategically, and with its unique agricultural resources and workforce needs in mind, to build success for companies like BelGioioso that are growing here because of all we have to offer. Our multi-agency workforce development and training efforts, investment and business partnerships will continue to grow jobs and success for this critical New York State industry.”
Senator Michelle Hinchey, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee said, “Dairy Month is an important reminder of the hard work done by our dairy farmers and processors to produce the food that makes New York a leading dairy state and create the local jobs that make our communities stronger. Dairy is a pillar of New York’s ag economy, and the Dairy Think Tank is a great example of our commitment to delivering real support for this cornerstone sector and boosting growth across all stages of production. It’s incredible to see this growth in action at businesses like BelGioioso Cheese, whose current Capital Region expansion helps us carry on New York’s legacy as a proud Dairy State.”
Assemblymember Donna Lupardo, Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee said, “I’d like to commend the work of the Dairy Think Tank, along with the Governor’s focus on strategic workforce development. New York’s dairy industry makes up the largest part of our farm economy and really needs this targeted approach to workforce recruitment and retention. Dairy Month is an appropriate time to recognize the hard work of NY’s dairy farmers, processors, and milk haulers; the ones who strive to produce and deliver such high-quality products.”
BelGioioso is currently expanding its operations to include a 120,000 square foot building with 60,000 square feet of new cold storage/cooler space plus offices and room for future expansion. Once the newly renovated storage facility is open, ten jobs will be added in Glenville. Additionally, BelGioioso has signed an agreement with Upstate Niagara Cooperative to purchase the Campbell cheese manufacturer in Steuben County. The deal is expected to be completed within 60 days, pending final due diligence. The plant’s full complement of several hundred workers is expected to make the transition to new ownership.
The Commissioners have partnered together and with industry leaders, including BelGioioso Cheese General Manager Tim Cronin, through the Dairy Think Tank to further develop the dairy industry in New York State, with a focus on addressing the industry’s workforce needs and spurring regional economic growth. The Department’s work through the Dairy Think Tank, in collaboration with DOL, ESD, and other state agencies and stakeholders, is one of several actions being taken in support of New York’s dairy industry throughout Dairy Month, which is celebrated in June, and beyond.
The Dairy Think Tank was created in 2020 at the advice of the Milk Marketing Advisory Council to bring together leaders in the industry, including representatives from the Department of Agriculture and Markets, Department of Labor, and Empire State Development, to discuss the current challenges facing the dairy industry and the industry’s future. The Dairy Think Tank identified workforce development and processing expansion as its top priorities, and the group’s efforts have been focused on these two areas.
To understand the dairy industry’s workplace needs, the Dairy Think Tank is currently working to devise strategies that retain the current workforce and entice the future workforce to work in the dairy industry. As part of these efforts, the Dairy Think Tank has developed and sent three surveys to the state’s dairy farmers, dairy processors, and milk haulers asking targeted questions to determine each sector’s workforce needs. The results of these surveys will guide the Dairy Think Tank’s workforce development strategy. Additionally, the Think Tank has been focused on understanding the workforce development programs New York State currently has in place and connecting interested farms, processors and haulers with those programs, as well as developing and promoting registered apprenticeship programs specifically for the dairy industry.
The efforts of the Dairy Think Tank build on the state’s ongoing workforce development initiatives. On April 26, Governor Hochul announced the creation of the New York State Office of Strategic Workforce Development, which will be charged with improving the State's workforce development programs and practices to better align with the needs and priorities of today's employers. The Governor first proposed the new office in her State of the State address earlier this year and committed funding that was approved in the FY2023 Budget. The $350 million in state funding committed to this effort will support wide-reaching, historic, and coordinated investment in workforce development across state agencies and authorities and includes $150 million in multi-year funding for new grant programs that will primarily support employer-driven, high skilled workforce training programs.