The Manitoba government and J.R. Simplot chose February 14, St. Valentine’s Day, to bring heart-warming news to the province’s potato growers. The international food processor plans to spend $460 million to increase its current facility near Portage la Prairie from 180,000 to 460,000 square feet. The extra capacity is expected to come onstream in fall 2019.
This expansion will more than double the plant’s need for potatoes from regional growers. They currently harvest 65,000 acres. As recently as the 2017 harvest, average yield hit an all-time high of 348 cwt/acre.
“Manitoba delivers in so many ways that will help make this project a success,” said 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.”
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.
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 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 represents one-fifth of Canada's total potato crop, making the province the second-largest producer after Prince Edward Island.
Source: Manitoba government February 14, 2018 news release