A new state-of-the-art frozen potato processing plant officially opened Thursday in Lethbridge. It’s the largest private sector investment in the city’s history.
“It is a great day for Lethbridge and for our employees, growers, suppliers and customers. Our new state-of-the-art plant is up and running and will allow us to continue to serve key export markets around the world,” said Robert Irving, president of Cavendish Farms, in a news release.
“There were many reasons we were able to expand our operation in Lethbridge and grow in Alberta. It starts with the availability of high quality potatoes from local growers, the can-do attitude of our Lethbridge employees and the dedicated effort of the project team and the hundreds of vendors who contributed to this project.”
The company said the plant replaces Cavendish Farms’ previous plant and will almost triple its production capacity in Lethbridge. The $430-million plant spans the size of seven football fields and will require 735 million pounds (333 million kg) of potatoes annually. That’s an increase of almost 12,000 acres over what Cavendish Farms currently contracts from local growers. The plant will now provide employment to 238 employees.
“This new plant is a vote of confidence in Alberta. This is great news for Lethbridge, and for all those Albertans who will earn a living working at this potato processing plant. I would like to thank Cavendish Farms for making this important $430-million investment in Alberta. Alberta’s food processing industry is growing in size and sophistication, and will be a key part of our government’s strategy to expand Alberta’s economy and create more jobs,” said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.
The company said the project involved two million person hours of work for contractors during construction. Over 900 workers were on site at peak and upwards of 110 Alberta companies were part of the project.
“Today we’re seeing the result of what happens when industry and municipalities work together,” said Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman. “Cavendish Farms has invested in our community and invested in our future and we are thrilled to congratulate them on the opening of their latest state-of-the-art processing facility.”
Cavendish Farms operates four potato processing plants – one in Lethbridge, two on Prince Edward Island, and one in Jamestown, N.D. They also operate a plant specializing in appetizer products in Wheatley, Ont. Cavendish Farms is part of the J.D. Irving Group of Companies.
Mario Toneguzzi is a Troy Media business reporter based in Calgary.