Dakota Provisions West, the company’s newest turkey processing plant that after a few months of testing is now filling customer orders, officially went on line in late February with 85 to 90 employees.
Ken Rutledge, the president and chief executive officer, said that number will climb to about 250 in 18 to 24 months when new lines and more products are added.
Workers recruited from Puerto Rico, some recently in their quest to escape the ravages of the hurricane for a better life, have been on the Dakota Provisions payroll training for their new jobs in the original plant east of Huron.
They are now transitioning to the new facility in the West Industrial Park.
In the coming months, new workers could include more Karen people and their families. Rutledge said there has also been some discussion on recruiting Vietnamese people, who are all English speaking.
He said he is frequently asked about the many Dakota Provisions employees who come from different countries.
“People say, ‘Why are you doing what you’re doing?’” Rutledge said.
“Well, number one, we need people. We definitely need people.
“And, number two, these people don’t want a hand out, they want a hand up,” Rutledge said. “And if we can provide somebody a hand up, we don’t consider that a hand out.”
Foreign-born employees and their families are gradually assimilating into everyday Huron life.
“And as far as we’re concerned, and hopefully, I think, the majority of the people in Huron feel the same way, you know what, these are good, honest, upstanding citizens,” Rutledge said.
“They’re going to be great for the community of Huron, I think,” he said.