Simplot announced a $460 million expansion of its potato processing facility at Portage la Prairie, Man. on Wednesday.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler were on hand with J.R. Simplot CEO Bill Whitacre to announce the investment, an expansion that will add nearly 100 jobs to the facility.
“Manitoba delivers in so many ways that will help make this project a success,” says Mark McKellar, food group president, Simplot. “It has access to quality potatoes, a strong grower community, availability of highly skilled employees and distribution routes that continue to expand our footprint. We are convinced Manitoba’s business-friendly environment made this the right decision for the J.R. Simplot Company.”
Simplot confirmed the $460 million construction project is expected to begin this spring and will increase the size of the facility from 180,000 to 460,000 square feet. The expansion will more than double the plant’s need for potatoes from regional growers, while increasing its employment by 87 expected new full-time positions. Current operations are expected to continue during construction, with expanded processing capacity expected in fall 2019.
The company first approached the provincial government about the expansion in early December — only around 60 days ago, according to Eichler, emphasizing the Manitoba government’s willingness to work quickly with the company.
RealAg’s Kelvin Heppner discussed the Simplot announcement, how it came together, and more with Manitoba Ag Minister Ralph Eichler at CropConnect in Winnipeg on Wednesday:
The investment package provided by the Manitoba government includes tax increment financing up to $6.31 million to assist with anticipated capital investments and road improvements. Manitoba will also provide up to $522,000 in employee training contributions, based on the number of new positions, according to the province.
Manitoba Hydro will provide $1 million in PowerSmart program funding for electrical and natural gas efficiency projects, based on the plant meeting program guidelines.
As part of the expansion, Simplot will also incorporate similar industry-leading energy and water efficiency processes which were first established at the company’s plant in Caldwell, Idaho. It was recently awarded Food Processing Green Plant of the Year in 2017 by a leading industry publication.
Manitoba growers annually harvest over 65,000 acres of potatoes, representing one-fifth of the Canada’s total potato crop — currently the second-largest producer in the country. Kam Blight, reeve for the RM of Portage, tweeted that the expansion will result in demand for another 17,000 acres of potatoes.