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Simplot is planning a High Bay Freezer at its Grand Forks potato processing plant

3D rendering of the JR Simplot Grand Forks, ND potato processing plant

3D rendering of the JR Simplot Grand Forks, ND potato processing plant (Courtesy: Google Maps). We marked the location that is under consideration for the high bay freezer construction

July 19, 2016
J.R. Simplot Co. is planning a $30 million expansion to its north Grand Forks potato processing plant, according to a city memo, though a company employee said corporate approval is still pending.

The Grand Forks Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously offered preliminary approval to a series of requests Wednesday from the Idaho-based agribusiness giant related to the expansion, which includes a "high bay freezer" that would be in excess of 110,000 square feet and 165 feet tall, according to a city staff report. The addition would be north of Simplot's refrigeration unit.

The freezer is a "rack-supported building" with 13 storage levels for "finished product."

"The purpose of the HBF is to freeze and store frozen product in preparation for shipping to customers and serve as a primary distribution center for the Simplot Co.," the city report stated.

Simplot's Grand Forks operation produces french fries, "tater gems" and hashbrowns, according to the company's website. The products are sold throughout the U.S. and to international customers, including restaurant chains and distributors, according to the website.

The commission approved three separate items on Wednesday evening, which helped simplify a legal description of Simplot's Grand Forks property and pave the way for zoning that would allow the building's construction. Approval was made with commission members Meggen Sande, Jim Galloway, Steven Adams, Peter Kuhn and Mayor Mike Brown absent; it was not immediately clear to a city official if Paula Lee's phone connection to the meeting was intact during the vote.

A presentation given on the project noted a potential September start date for construction, with a completion date 12 to 15 months later.

Tal Elseth, a unit director for Simplot, told the commission the project is being reviewed by the company. Tal Elseth:

"We're researching the opportunity."

"We're going after these changes for preliminary approval to get things laid out in case this does get approved, but it's not a done deal."
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Simplot is one of the three larger french fry manufacturers in the United States.