Along with many technological improvements comes a new freezer automation system, which illustrates just one facet of the many changes to Bellisio Foods’s infrastructure. The pallets of entrée boxes shown here are robotically stacked, wrapped, and placed onto the conveyor entirely through a complex and impressive system of machinery and belts, all monitored, inspected and adjusted by trained employees. (Telegram Photo by Alex Shope)
Along with many technological improvements comes a new freezer automation system, which illustrates just one facet of the many changes to Bellisio Foods’s infrastructure. The pallets of entrée boxes shown here are robotically stacked, wrapped, and placed onto the conveyor entirely through a complex and impressive system of machinery and belts, all monitored, inspected and adjusted by trained employees. (Telegram Photo by Alex Shope)

The most durable objective for which Bellisio Foods of Jackson has always endeavored is its desire to improve and, paradoxically, to change.

At the forefront of these changes are the employees of the food manufacturer, the lifeblood of the company and those that matter most to any growing business. Recently, Bellisio Foods entered a new contract with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local Union 1059, which provides a much-improved pay structure for current and prospective employees and also grants them a better work-life balance.

Explaining the highlights of this new contract was Nick Erwin, Senior Director of Operations, who was eager to highlight these changes for The Telegram.

“The new contract puts us at an average wage now, where we feel like we’re competitive in the market,” said Erwin. “Combined with all the internal changes we’ve made to the work environment, people who haven’t worked here or haven’t been here in 5, 10, 15 years, we can now show them that past experiences may not match up with reality.”

Along with their increased pay, employees will enjoy both increased paid time off and vacation time that will be available sooner.

The pay increase is the latest improvement sanctioned with employee satisfaction in mind, but the company has also provided a wealth of technological advances that have improved the workdays of its staff as well as streamlining the efficiency of production.

Gone are the days of toil in rust-belt manufacturing, at least in Bellisio Foods, as technology is slowly introduced to the workforce; these upgrades delegate repetitive and difficult manual labor to robotics, freeing employees to either work in other areas or maintain the sleek new equipment. Since the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Bellisio Foods has buckled in and doubled down on its focus for innovation and efficiency. With their new approach, working in the factory has never been more accessible and convenient.

“We’ve made adjustments to the facility and work environment pretty rapidly through the last couple years,” said Erwin. “These changes in the work environment not only kept us operating during COVID, but also made sense in the best interest of our employees.”

Improvements made to the factory include new automation and robotics, a new automated storage freezer, new pack out sorting machines that pack boxes with entrees in shelf-ready packaging, and much more. In a tour of the facility, Bellisio Foods and Mr. Erwin invited The Telegram to take a picture of the new automated freezer system, which is shown.

Workers are also given a wide variety of benefits that enrich their everyday lives. A prominent presence in many local communities, Bellisio Foods’s partnerships with various programs are also an attraction to job seekers searching for employment. As the University of Rio Grande expands and plans for its Manufacturing Training Center to come to fruition, Bellisio Foods keeps in close talks with the college’s representatives in hopes of utilizing the future facility to train their employees; currently, the college possesses the same brands of robotic implements that make work at Bellisio Foods simpler and are eager to train others in their use.

The factory has also opened its doors to younger employees, allowing 16- and 17-year-old students to make money and jump-start their careers through a work/school program. Transportation is also available to and from work through the company’s partnership with the YMCA. Additionally, the company is very understanding of where people currently stand in life and is open to hiring individuals going through criminal recovery, should they be able to pass the standard background and drug checks. Free entrée meals are also provided in the cafeterias, and the Union itself offers several benefits and perks for all employees.

“Our biggest problem right now is that we want to hire more people so that we can expand,” Erwin said of upcoming endeavors. “We want to bring in new production lines and take on more items, but right now the ‘people’ part of the equation isn’t where we want it to be to do so.”

Perhaps most notably, employees can take advantage of Bellisio Foods’s Health Clinic, located across the street at 81 E. Broadway St., headed by the experienced and friendly Nurse Practitioner Andrew Varney. With an astounding patient satisfaction rate of 99.3 percent, the clinic is open to all employees free of charge and has been a staple in providing its Bellisio patients with the medical care they need, allaying concerns surrounding rising medical costs and visits.

With plans to build an on-site company day care and to source mental health treatment on the horizon, Erwin poses that the company’s employees will always be the focus of many of their concerns.

Speaking of future applicants, Erwin said: “We’d actually like to see some people that, maybe, didn’t like us before to give us another chance. That’s really what we’re trying to get at. I feel like every year we’ve been here, we’ve evolved, we’ve become a better company, a better employer, and it’s what we strive for. It’s something we’ve worked very hard to get to.”

To apply for a position at Bellisio Foods, simply find the Careers option at the Bellisio Foods website at www.bellisiofoods.com or call 740-286-5505 and direct any and all questions to the Human Resources Department. The Bellisio Foods Plant in Jackson is located at 100 E. Broadway St.