On Oct. 1, President Lawrence Schovanec of Texas Tech announced at the Leprino Food news conference that Leprino was recruiting on campus while also forming a new partnership with the university.
“It’s in the early stages of that relationship,” Schovanec said. “But they were on campus, earlier this fall, to meet with our career placement center.”
He said when he visited Lerino’s plant in Colorado, he was introduced to the Leprino Food Management Training Program.
The program, Schovanec said, is where students can participate in internships with the company in hopes to transitioning into the company as full-time employees.
“The possibility that Texas Tech could have a closer relationship to Leprino was important in attracting them to Lubbock,” he said.
Schovanec said the details of the programs are: the program would last 12 to 18 months, would be both summer and non-summer positions, students would receive a base salary and a living stipend.
“The applicable majors at Texas Tech that they’ve listed here would be food science, animal science, agribusiness, biology, chemical engineering, industrial engineering (and) mechanical engineering management,” he said.
However, Leprino is already recruiting new and upcoming graduates as employee, Schovanec said, even before Leprino opens its Lubbock plant in 2025.
Schovanec said when members of Leprino Foods were on campus recently and they spent most of their time with the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, especially in the meat science department.
Cindy Akers, interim dean for CASNR, said Leprino signed up for the CASNR Career Fair on Oct. 6 where students could meet with potential employers or learn about internship opportunities.
She said Leprino told them that they had a lot of students show interest in them.
“They are going to start also coming into different classes,” Akers said. “That hasn’t happened yet but we’ve made sure we connected them with some of the different faculty so that they do have that option.”
Ankers said Leslie Thompson, professor of food science and safety within the Meat Science & Muscle Biology program, has already asked Leprino Foods to come into one of her classes to not only talk about job opportunities but also the industry itself.
“I think really right now it’s starting those relationships and we want to be seen as a partner with Leprino Foods that they know that they can come to us if they have an issue,” Akers said. “That we have the capability and the faculty in place that can solve, you know, help them solve problems or look at different needs that they might have.”
Schovanec and Ankers said the university is also open to partnering with Leprino Foods when it comes to research.
“We’ve had considerable discussion about for research. Obviously, food safety would be at the forefront of that,” Schovanec said.
Joseph Heppert, vice president for Research & Innovation at Tech, said there are no specific research partnerships taking place, to his knowledge, but the university is willing to have those discussions.
However, Tech is already conducting its own food safety-related research on campus through CASNR such as increasing the quality of packaging to increase the shelf-life of food and understanding bacterial contamination in food.
“One of my colleagues, who’s an associate vice president for Research, Mindy Brashears is very interested in cross-contamination of food sources,” he said. “For example, you know, situations where you’re doing plant agriculture and you see contamination coming from E. Coli or other kinds of bacterial that might be originating in animal agriculture.”
With the plant being built in Lubbock, Heppert said there is a lot of potential opportunities for research both on campus and at the plant.
He said there are possibilities for the university to research or partner with Leprino food in helping develop the engineering side of the plant. Tech also offers Leprino expertise in wind energy and micro-energy, he said.
“Leprino is very interested in in incorporating greater sustainability and greater environmental stewardship in their business model,” he said. “They’re very interested in learning about how they might use renewable energy as part of the overall process of powering their plants.”
However, until Leprino and Tech start partnering together to conduct research, Heppert said he would encourage undergraduates to get involved in research their professors are a part of.
Overall, when it comes to Tech partnering with Leprino Foods, Schovanec said Tech is here for them.
“We look forward to providing full resources of Texas Tech to address their core areas of excellence and their core capabilities,” he said.
Leprino Coming to Lubbock
On Oct. 1, the governor of Texas, President Schovanec, city leaders and the City of Lubbock welcomed the announcement of Leprino Foods building a plant in Lubbock and the over $850 million private investment into the city at a news conference.
According to a video from the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance, Leprino Foods is a global leader in producing mozzarella cheese.
Known for its cotton exports, the South Plains has seen more amount of dairies move into the area along with the eastern part of New Mexico, Ankers said.
“I think that was also one of the areas, one of the reasons we were selected is because we have such a strong dairy industry here locally that has moved into the area,” Ankers said.
Mike Durkin, chief executive officer of Leprino Foods, said construction o the new facility would start in 2022 and be finished by October 2024 with an expansion of the facility being completed in 2026.
The new plant would bring in around 600 jobs as well as generate over the course of 10 years an estimated $10.6 in wages, Durkin said at the news conference.
Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope also said at the news conference that the average wages of the employees would be around $50,000.
“I am very excited to have them in this community,” Schovanec said. “The culture and the values of that company are very aligned with the culture, the values of Texas Tech lobby in West Texas will become evident once they’re here.”