Facing expanded production at its Nampa cheese plant and an increasingly competitive labor market, Lactalis American Group is investing $30 million in increased wages for workers and upgrading equipment.
Workers at the Lactalis cheese factory in Nampa will see up to a 13% increase in wages and an average 10% across all positions, the company says. The factory, which employs 820 people, has 42 job openings and hopes to attract applicants with the higher pay.
The equipment upgrade means the plant likely will need even more workers.
“We are growing and continuing to hire more people, and with the situation in the Treasure Valley job market, we want to attract people who want a career,” said Olivier Delobbe, Nampa deputy site director for Lactalis, by phone. “We can provide a good career path from entry level positions and higher.”
The factory, at 4912 E. Franklin Road, makes mozzarella and string cheese. The company says it uses mostly local ingredients from 40 small dairies in the Treasure Valley.
Delobbe said Lactalis is also opening up its medical insurance for new hires the first month they start. Until now, workers have had to wait three or four months before they are eligible.
He also said the Nampa plant is offering higher premium pay for less-desirable shifts, like weekends and nights.
The entry level starting wage is increasing from between $15.50 and $23.30 per hour to between $17 and $26.50 per hour, based on skills and experience, Lactalis said in a news release.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a labor shortage across the U.S. A mass exodus of people form the workforce has been dubbed The Great Resignation.
Last year over 32,000 Idahoans left their jobs. From July to August 2021, the number of workers who left their jobs increased by 4%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Employers are raising pay and trying to make their jobs more attractive to applicants. “Help Wanted” signs can be seen throughout the Treasure Valley. McDonald’s restaurants in Boise have posted signs and handed flyers to customers offering $14-an-hour starting pay.
Brief supply chain problems
Things have been steady the last two months for the Nampa Lactalis plant, but in September it joined a number of U.S. manufacturers that had trouble getting packaging delivered for their cheese.
Delobbe said Lactalis’ packaging supplier changed its lead time, or the time it takes then to complete production on the packaging, and Lactalis did not have the packaging stock to prepare for that change.
“We worked closely with our suppliers and we were successful and did not run out, but it was tight,” Delobbe said.
He said the delay was partially because of the lack of availability of some packaging components.
Nationwide, the packaging shortage is due to a combination of constant labor shortages and a lack of cargo containers that move bulk materials.
Delobbe said Lactalis has not had packaging issues since October.