Highlight workforce development and economic development efforts for the dairy sector

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball, accompanied by New York State Department of Labor (DOL) Commissioner Roberta Reardon, highlighted the state’s efforts in labor and economic development for New York’s dairy industry during a tour of the BelGioioso cheese plant in Schenectady County. Friday, June 17. BelGioioso Cheese, Inc., a leading specialty cheese maker, built a new manufacturing facility in Glenville in 2019 which has created more than 50 jobs and is currently expanding its operations to include a newly renovated warehousing facility that will create ten jobs in Glenville. Today’s announcement comes during Dairy Month as the state shines a light on the dairy industry, which is the largest segment of New York’s agricultural sector.

Commissioner Ball said, “Dairy Month is the perfect time to promote the work of our Dairy Think Tank, which focuses on understanding the needs of the dairy industry in the workplace and developing strategies to help processors attract and Retain great employees so they can increase their transformative capabilities. Our visit to the BelGioioso factory during Dairy Month shines a light on a company doing things right, expanding its operations and creating new jobs in the capital region. I am excited to continue my partnership with industry leaders and with our other state agencies to ensure New York dairy remains a mainstay of our agriculture industry.

Commissioner Reardon said, “The dairy industry does more than just energy jobs, it is essential to the health and nutrition of communities across the state. As part of the Dairy Think Tank, we are committed to exploring innovative ways to improve this vital 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 operates strategically, and with its unique agricultural resources and labor needs in mind, to ensure the success of “companies like BelGioioso that thrive here because of all we have to offer. Our multi-agency workforce development and training efforts, investments and business partnerships will continue to grow jobs and the success for this vital New York State industry.

Senator Michelle Hinchey, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said: “Dairy Month is an important reminder of the hard work of our dairy farmers and processors to produce the foods that make New York a leading dairy state and create local jobs that strengthen our communities. Milk is a mainstay of New York’s agricultural economy, and the Dairy Think Tank is a great example of our commitment to providing real support to this key sector and driving growth at all stages of production. It’s amazing to see this growth in action at companies like BelGioioso Cheese, whose current expansion into the Capital Region is helping us continue New York’s legacy as a proud dairy state.

Donna Lupardo, Assembly Member and Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, said: “I would like to commend the work of the Dairy Think Tank, as well as the Governor’s focus on strategic workforce development. New York’s dairy industry represents the bulk of our agricultural economy and really needs this targeted approach to workforce recruitment and retention. Dairy Month is an appropriate time to recognize the hard work of New York’s dairy farmers, processors and haulers; those who strive to produce and deliver products of such quality.

BelGioioso is currently expanding its operations to include a 120,000 square foot building with 60,000 square feet of new cold storage/chiller space as well as office space and room for future expansion. Once the newly renovated storage facility opens, ten jobs will be added to Glenville. In addition, BelGioioso has signed an agreement with Upstate Niagara Cooperative to buy Campbell cheese maker in Steuben County. The deal is expected to be completed within 60 days, pending final due diligence. The plant’s full workforce of several hundred workers is expected to 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, by focusing on meeting industry labor needs and stimulating regional economic growth. The Department’s work through the Dairy Think Tank, in conjunction with the DOL, ESD, and other state agencies and stakeholders, is one of many steps taken to support New York’s dairy industry. York throughout Dairy monthwhich is celebrated in June, and beyond.

The Dairy Think Tank was created in 2020 on the advice of the Milk Marketing Advisory Council bring together industry leaders, including representatives from the Department of Agriculture and Markets, Department of Labor and Empire State Development, to discuss current challenges facing the dairy industry and the future of the industry. The Dairy Think Tank has identified workforce development and expanding processing as its top priorities, and the group’s efforts have focused on these two areas.

To understand the workplace needs of the dairy industry, the Dairy Think Tank is currently working to develop strategies that retain the current workforce and entice the future workforce to work in the industry dairy. As part of these efforts, the Dairy Think Tank developed and sent out three surveys to dairy farmers, dairy processors and milk haulers across the state asking targeted questions to determine the labor needs of each sector. The results of these surveys will guide the Dairy Think Tank’s workforce development strategy. Additionally, the think tank focused on understanding the workforce development programs currently in place in New York State and connecting interested farms, processors and haulers. with these programs, as well as the development and promotion of registered apprenticeship programs specifically for the dairy industry.

The Dairy Think Tank’s efforts build on the state’s ongoing workforce development initiatives. On April 26, Governor Hochul announced the creation of the New York State Office for Strategic Workforce Development, who will be responsible for 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 his State of the State address earlier this year and committed funding that was approved in the fiscal year 2023 budget. The $350 million in funding committed to this effort will support large-scale, historic and coordinated investments in workforce development in state agencies and authorities and will include $150 million in multi-year funding for new programs grants that will mainly support employers, training programs for highly qualified manpower.

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