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Naturally Potatoes breaks ground for expansion doubling its production capacity

Naturally Potatoes breaks ground for expansion doubling it's capacity
June 8, 2014
Increases in consumer demand, prices paid for locally grown Maine potatoes, and in local employment were the topics on everyone’s tongue today as Naturally Potatoes broke ground on a seven-and-a half-million-dollar expansion to its Mars Hill potato processing plant. The expansion is in addition to a one-million-dollar packaging line upgrade that is nearly completed.

The expansion, announced today by company CEO William Haggett, will double the facility’s production capacity and storage capability. Haggett said next year, Naturally Potatoes will process 50 million pounds of Maine potatoes.

Haggett attributed the success of Naturally Potatoes, in part, to “area farmers who grow the best Russets and Red Norland potatoes in America and an over all business climate in Maine that is conducive to expansion in our market segment.”

Within the next 18 months, Naturally Potatoes expects to at up to 15 more jobs.

The expansion includes 12,000 new square feet for dry storage, doubles the refrigerated warehousing area, and more than doubles the product cooling capacity.

In his remarks at the groundbreaking, Haggett thanked the Town of Mars Hill for its tax incentive financing support and the State of Maine for providing Pine Tree Zone benefits.

“This expansion signals that Naturally Potatoes’ best days still lie ahead,” said Haggett.

The full statement of CEO William Haggett on the occasion of breaking ground can be found below.

Naturally Potatoes breaks ground on a $7.5 million dollar expansion to it’s Mars Hill facility . The expansion will double the size of its current facility and bring new jobs to Aroostook County. From left to right: Walt Whitcomb; Commissioner of Agriculture; Rodney McCrum; President and COO; Brent Grass, Local Grower; William Haggett, CEO (Courtesy : Pineland Farms)

Statement of William E. Haggett, Chairman and CEO Naturally Potatoes

Welcome to this very important and exciting day for Naturally Potatoes, its employees, its customers, and the farmers whose great potatoes make all this possible.

The foundation for today’s major step forward was laid back in the 1990s, when Rodney McCrum and some of his risk-taking farming friends saw a future in the refrigerated potatoes markets, and with a lot of help, created a business designed to add value to potatoes.

As with most new business ventures, those early days were a struggle, but with the Libra Foundation’s help, by 2003/2004, sales and potato consumption were impressive and increasing rapidly.

From 2005 to mid-2010, Basic America owned and operated the company. In 2010, Libra, Rodney, and I were given an opportunity to re-acquire the business and with Libra’s strong support, we jumped at the chance.

Since 2010, Naturally Potatoes has resumed its earlier patterns of sales growth, product diversification, earnings improvement, increased capacity utilization, and higher levels of Maine grown potato consumption every year.

Naturally Potatoes CEO William Haggett addresses the crowd at the ground-breaking ceremony in Mars Hill

We attribute these successes to:

  • A highly effective marketing effort
  • A terrific group of employees who safely produce the refrigerated potatoes industry’s highest quality products in a cost effective manner
  • Area farmers who grow the best Russets and Red Norland potatoes in America, and
  • An overall business climate in Maine that is conducive to expansion in our market segment.
Next year, we expect to consume 50 million pounds of Maine-grown potatoes. With annual growth rates exceeding 15%, we are rapidly running out of space.

For all these reasons, today we are breaking ground on a major facility expansion designed to add $7,500,000 of assets to a $1,000,000 packaging line upgrade now nearing completion. This new plan will include 12,000 square feet of dry storage; double the refrigerated warehousing area; more than double product cooling capacity; add a new water blancher; add new mashed potato kettles; add potato packaging equipment; provide a new employee cafeteria’ and provide space for a cheese packaging line. In the process, an employee parking area will be constructed as well as systems to control rainwater runoff.

When completed late this fall, Naturally Potatoes’ production and storage capacity will have doubled production, its customer diversification will have been improved, and employee efficiencies will have been enhanced.

Naturally Potatoes is in the second year of a two-year agreement with its growers and expects to purchase 20% more potatoes and pay slightly higher prices per cwt this year than last.

Finally, we expect to increase employment here by 10 to 15 employees with the next 18 months.

Management is indebted to the Town of Mars Hill for its tax incentive financing support of this expansion and to the State of Maine for providing Pine Tree Zone benefits. Most important, the owners of Naturally Potatoes want to thank our potato growers and employees who add value to those potatoes by combining to produce the best refrigerated potatoes available.

Having 25 or more trucks every week filled with our potatoes headed for hundreds of happy customers around the United States, is what justifies investments such as those planned to follow today’s ground breaking. Best yet, what this expansion signals is that Naturally Potatoes’ best days still lie ahead.

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William E. Haggett
Chairman & CEO
Pineland Farms Potato Company, Inc.
dba Naturally Potatoes
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The Pineland Farms Potato Company (formerly known as Naturally Potatoes) is a manufacturer of refrigerated pasteurized cut and mashed potato products in Maine.