Hellenga settles in as JBS general manager
WORTHINGTON — A familiar face at JBS has climbed the ladder, so to speak, to the general manager’s post.
“It certainly has been busy, and for a point there we didn’t have someone filled for my previous position, so it was challenging,” Hellinga said. “Now that we have that position filled, I can finally get a grasp of my new position.”
Hellinga, of Harris, Iowa, graduated from South Dakota State University in 1989 with a degree in animal science and started in quality assurance at JBS. He then became a livestock analyst before being promoted to first shift plant manager in 2007.
“I still live in Harris today, so I’ve been here all my life, and I know the community well,” he said. “When I was promoted first shift manager, I knew that I wanted to work toward being general manager.”
As general manager, Hellinga oversees the operations and finances of JBS. With the new position, he plans to increase management development within the company.
“We do have management training, but I’d like to do a better job at it and train managers to do a better job,” Hellinga said. “It could even just be moving managers around in different areas and getting them to do different things and seeing how other jobs work.”
Hellinga is also a part of the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. (WREDC) board, and has supported United Way of Nobles County and Relay for Life through JBS.
“I just joined the WREDC board, and I’m really excited,” he said. “I’ve also always supported raising money for United Way and Relay for Life. They’re great organizations to raise money for, and it helps the community.”
Hellinga also plans to continue to give group tours of the plant.
“I think it’s important for the community to see what we do here,” Hellinga said. “Instead of just being that mysterious big plant at the edge of town, I think it’s important to open our doors and show exactly what we do.
“I think when people come here and take a tour, they’re surprised at how clean and efficient our facility is,” Hellinga added. “Everything has a purpose here.”
So far, JBS has opened its doors to the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as giving tours to schools.
“It depends on the group who wants to come for a tour,” Hellinga said. “For instance, we don’t allow children under 15 due to safety reasons, but we’re willing to schedule tours with groups who are interested.”
In addition to the tours, JBS officials also speak to schools and give presentations about the inner workings of the company.
JBS has partnered with Minnesota West Community and Technical College to provide classes for maintenance employees to learn about hydraulics and pneumatics. The program involves refresher classes or in-depth classes in a variety of subjects ranging from welding to computer and PLC programming.
“Those classes are at the new Center for Career Education, which was the old Worthington fire hall, and that started in September 2013,” Hellinga said. “So far, it has been a great addition, and so many people have taken advantage of the classes.”
Along with offering classes at the Center for Career Education, Hellinga said JBS is also planning on projects within the company that will include updating equipment.
“We’re not planning any expansions at the moment, but we are doing little projects — even though the projects are worth a large amount of money,” he said. “They’re all things that are happening within the plant and will update some of our equipment.”
Hellinga added that JBS is also looking for employees and encourages people that are looking for careers to look at the company.
“We’re not just looking for meat cutters and quality assurance employees,” Hellinga said. “We look for nurses, engineers, waste water treatment employees — the list goes on.
“JBS is just a great place to work. I’ve been here for 24 years and plan to continue on.”
JBS always looks for diverse employees who can contribute to the company’s goals.
“I think another reason why JBS is such a great place to work is because of its diversity,” Hellinga said. “You can basically travel around the world without leaving the building.”
JBS has been in the animal protein and food production business for more than 50 years with a long-term commitment to improve business globally for many years to come.
For more information on JBS, visit www.jbssa.com.
Daily Globe Reporter
Erin Trester may be reached