Sheboygan County worker shortage doesn't deter cheese packaging company from choosing Oostburg

Posted at 6:55 PM, Jan 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-18 20:03:44-05

A worker shortage in Sheboygan County leaves thousands of jobs unfilled, yet a plan to build a new $30 million factory is moving forward.

Masters Gallery Foods says its plan to build a cheese packaging facility in the Village of Oostburg is nearly a 'done deal'.  Managers and county leaders alike tell TODAY’S TMJ4 competitive wages and location will set them apart.

Given approval, Masters Gallery Foods’ new facility would go in the Oostburg Business Park. Word of 120 new jobs potentially coming to a village of fewer than 3,000 brings a lot of excitement at the local diner.

"It's going to bring in a lot of people to this town that we've never seen before," said Nick Ackley of Oostburg.

"That's music to my ears,” added Ben Hesselink.

An idiom fitting for Hesselink, as he’s a dairy farmer himself. He has just has one concern.

"It's getting harder and harder to find good help but I think that's due to the unemployment rate," he said. 

According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Sheboygan County's unemployment rate is down to 3.2 percent, nearly a full percentage point lower than the state of Wisconsin.

"There are 3,500 job postings within 25 miles of Sheboygan,” said Sheboygan Co. Economic Development Director Dane Checolinski.

Despite the large number of openings across the county, Checolinski doesn't believe Masters Gallery Foods’ new plant would run into that issue.

"With wages starting at around $18 an hour and going up, I have little doubt they'll have much challenge filling those positions," he said.

Company leaders said if local residents can't fill their demand, their location lends itself to a short commute.

"We feel that the labor pool, especially from as far north as Manitowoc and coming south and frankly there might be people coming from Milwaukee to come up," said executive chairman Jeff Giffin.

The Wisconsin senate just approved $2.7 million in taxpayer incentives for infrastructure around the plant.
Giffin said they hope to break ground in April and open its doors next year.

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