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J.R. Simplot announces major expansion of its Manitoba Potato Processing operations

From left to right: Portage la Prairie Reeve Kam Blight, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, J.R. Simplot CEO Bill Whitacre, Manitoba Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler, Portage la Prairie Mayor Irvine Ferris and Manitoba Education Minister Ian Wishart announced the planned expansion of the Simplot potato plant in Portage la Prairie. (Courtesy: Jessica Botelho / Winnipeg Free Press)

Yesterday the Manitoba government and Agribusiness J.R. Simplot Company (Simplot) announced a major investment and expansion in the company’s Manitoba-based potato processing operations near Portage la Prairie.

Manitoba's premier Brian Pallister and its Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler were joined by ‎Mark McKellar from ‎Simplot to make the announcement.

Brian Pallister, Premier of Manitoba:

“Our government is excited to join Simplot today to announce a historic investment and expansion of their Manitoba operations.”

“Simplot has already established itself as a member of the community of Portage la Prairie and now they are doubling their operations and investing in the future of Manitoba.”

“Simplot, like others before them, has taken notice of a renewed focus on improving the business climate and our efforts to create opportunities for growth and investment.”
Mark McKellar, President North American Food Group at J.R. Simplot Company:

“Manitoba delivers in so many ways that will help make this project a success.”

“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.

Ralph Eichler, Manitoba Minister of Agriculture:

“Simplot has been an outstanding corporate and community partner since establishing its operations in Manitoba.”

“This investment further cements their reputation as a pillar in Manitoba’s agriculture and food processing sector.”

“The plant’s increase in capacity also presents a tremendous opportunity for Manitoba farmers to strengthen their partnership with a reliable local processor and increase potato production in Manitoba.”
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.

Kam Blight, reeve for the Rural Municipality of Portage la Prairie:

“Simplot has long been an outstanding partner and contributor to the community of Portage la Prairie and the surrounding area.”

“We are beyond excited for them to grow their operations here and create even more economic opportunities for the region.”

“In addition to the recent announcement of Roquette [PP: pea starch factory], business truly is booming for Portage la Prairie.”
Irvine Ferris, mayor, City of Portage la Prairie:

"This is a great day for the Portage region.”

“Simplot has been a strong corporate citizen in our community since 2003. We welcome today's announcement, that Simplot will double production in Portage.”

“This significant investment will create more jobs, business opportunities and prosperity for the entire region."
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 growers annually harvest over 65,000 acres of potatoes, representing one-fifth of the Canada's total potato crop and making Manitoba the second-largest producer in the country.