Cavendish Farms breaks ground on new $360-million potato plant in Lethbridge
By Nick Kuhl
Southern Alberta Newspapers
The largest investment in the city’s history will help continue economic diversification and increase manufacturing, say Alberta’s premier, Lethbridge’s mayor, and the president of a large potato processing business.
Premier Rachel Notley, Mayor Chris Spearman and Robert Irving were among a large group who gathered Monday afternoon at a sod-turning event for the new $360-million Cavendish Farms facility in the Sherring Business and Industrial Park.
The new plant will replace the aging facility in Lethbridge and almost triple Cavendish Farms’ annual production capacity in the city. It is designed to present further opportunities for local producers and increase the province’s value-added food-processing capabilities, including an additional 9,000 acres of potatoes.
At the height of construction, it is anticipated there will be 400 construction workers on-site and 750,000 person hours of work.
Notley called it an important investment for the city, which has a “strong and stable economy,” as well as the province, which is “one of many signs that Alberta is recovering.”
“We’re just very pleased to have been able to attract Cavendish,” Notley said, speaking to reporters ahead of the sod turning event Monday afternoon.
“We know that they were looking at a number of communities across North America. We’re very proud that they’re coming to Lethbridge.
“The record investment Cavendish Farms is making in Lethbridge is good for our farmers and producers, good for the entire community, and good for our growing economy.
“It just reinforces what we’ve all known about Lethbridge for a long time, which is that it is a great place to live and do business. It’s really good news for everybody.”
“It’s an exciting day for our company, Cavendish Farms, as we continue to grow and expand our business here,” said Irving, adding the current plant has 170 jobs while the new one could go up to 190 jobs when it opens in fall 2019.
The original announcement of the Cavendish plant was made last December.
City council approved a $41.5-million expansion to the Sherring Business and Industrial Park, as well as the $7,916,000-land sale agreement of more than 287 acres north of the future 44 Avenue.
The Alberta and federal governments are contributing $20 million to the City of Lethbridge for municipal infrastructure developments through the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund and Alberta’s Capital Plan.
“What a fantastic day for our city,” said Spearman.
“It’s the biggest single investment in Lethbridge. It boosts the total current investment and construction in our city to over $1-billion for the very first time in our city’s history.
“It’s very exciting for people who are working in the construction sector; people who are looking for on-going jobs in the agricultural centre, whether it be in farming or in food processing.
“I really want to thank Cavendish Farms for their vote of confidence in our city. I think it enhances our reputation as one of the best cities in Canada for new investments.”
Six current city councillors, Lethbridge East MLA Maria Fitzpatrick, Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips, and Lethbridge College President Paula Burns were among the other dignitaries in attendance for the sod turning Monday.
Construction on the new plant will begin with foundation work in December.
-With files from Melissa Villeneuve