Construction underway on Roquette plant
Pascal Leroy (left), Roquette VP of pea and new proteins business line, smokes from a pipe while Eric Pashe (right), Dakota Tipi councillor, lights the tobacco and Manitoba premiere Brian Pallister (middle), watches on with amusement during a ceremonial pipe smoking event to kick off this afternoon's Roquette groundbreaking ceremony in Portage la Prairie. (Brian Oliver/The Graphic)
Construction is officially underway on a project that will provide a much needed economic boost to Portage la Prairie.
Ground was official broken today at Poplar Bluff Industrial Park - the site of what will be Roquette's second pea processing plant and first in North America – a venture that will see nearly half a billion dollars invested into the community and generate 150 permanent job positions.
“It's an exciting day for us - to be able to taste our nice product within 24 months and again be in a position to serve our customers here in North America as well as the world wide business,” says Pascal Leroy, Roquette vice president of pea and new proteins business line.
200 jobs are anticipated to be created during the plant's construction alone, and following the projected April 2019 completion date, an additional 150 positions will have to be filled in order to staff the operation.
“It's a historic day for Portage and the entire region and for the province,” says Portage Mayor, Irvine Ferris. “This is a huge investment. This is $488 million dollars and we're very excited about it and were looking forward to working with Roquette. (It's) a very worthwhile project that'll have a huge impact on our local economy and really the economy of Manitoba.”
Roquette's Portage-based operation is expected to produced 130,000 tonnes of yellow peas every year. Combine that number with its operation in France and a quarter-million tonnes of yellow peas are produced annually, making Roquette among the highest volume of pea producers in the world.
“We've been waiting a number of weeks and months for this to finally come to reality,” adds Ralph Eichler, Manitoba's minister of agriculture. “We'll see the town and the Rural Municipality both grow and prosper. When you're talking about 150 permanent employees, that's a big number for us in rural Manitoba. We're glad that opportunity is here for us to capitalize on.”
Manitoba Premiere Brian Pallister reminisced of a more populous Portage la Prairie during a speech welcoming the french company and believes that Roquette's investment will help return the city to its once bountiful population size.
'Portage is a great place to live,” Ferris adds. “We have a terrific quality of life but people need jobs to move here and this will provide more jobs and a way to move here and enjoy the quality of life in our community.”