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Simplot invests $460 million into Portage operation

By Brian Oliver, The Graphic

J R Simplot announced today the company will invest $460 million to expand it's Portage la Prairie operation. RM of Portage Reeve Kam Blight (left) and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister (right) are all smiles following Wednesday morning's announcement. (Brian Oliver/The Graphic/Postmedia)

J R Simplot announced today the company will invest $460 million to expand it's Portage la Prairie operation. RM of Portage Reeve Kam Blight (left) and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister (right) are all smiles following Wednesday morning's announcement. (Brian Oliver/The Graphic/Postmedia)

Portage la Prairie is quickly becoming a major player in produce production.
 
The potato producing company, J. R. Simplot, announced today that it'll be investing $460 million to expand its Portage-based operations and more than double the plant's need for potatoes.
 
“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," says Manitoba Premier, Brian Pallister. "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.”
 
The near half-billion dollar construction project is expected to begin later this year and will increase the facility's size from 180,000 to 460,000 square feet. 87 full-time jobs are expected to be needed to staff the operation, which will continue during the expansion project, with an anticipated completion date in late 2019.
 
“(Manitoba) has access to quality potatoes, a strong grower community, availability of highly skilled employees and distribution routes that continue to expand our footprint," said Mark McKellar, food group president, Simplot. "We are convinced Manitoba’s business-friendly environment made this the right decision for the J.R. Simplot Company.”
 
Simplot, founded in 1929, is headquartered in Boise, Idaho and has operations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and China, marketing products to more than 40 countries worldwide. Combine today's investment with last year's mammoth Roquette investment, and Portage la Prairie has attracted over a billion dollars from the agricultural industry in the past year alone.
 
"Our location is prime. The resources and the availability here is plentiful, which makes it very attractive for investment," says Portage Regional Economic Development's (PRED) Vern May. "Our access to highway and rail and our proximity to an international airport, a lot of people would say how close we are to Winnipeg is a detriment to us. I think it's actually a strength."
 
The investment agreement with the province includes tax increment financing up to $6.31 million to assist with capital investments and road improvements. Manitoba will also pitch in more than half a million dollars in employee training contributions.
 
Growers province-wide harvest more than 65,000 acres of potatoes annually, equating to one-fifth of the nation's potato crop, which ranks Manitoba the second largest potato producer in Canada.
 
Simplot first arrived in Portage la Prairie in 2003 with the processing capacity of more than 300 million pounds of frozen french fries and formed potato products.

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