Irving-owned Cavendish Farms is opening a new $360-million frozen potato-processing plant in Lethbridge, bringing about 400 jobs to southern Alberta.

Company president Robert K. Irving said it is a big deal for agriculture in Alberta.

"Our business will grow from 6,000 acres of potatoes today, with our present land, up to over 15,000 acres," Irving said at the new plant's groundbreaking on Monday.

Robert K. Irving

Robert K. Irving, Cavendish Farms president, says he appreciates the support of all three levels of government. (Andrew Brown/CBC)

"Those 9,000 acres, it's an opportunity for the local farmers, the growers in the region, to really look at the opportunity to grow and expand their operations here and have a long-term future with potatoes."

He said co-operation with all three levels of government, including infrastructure subsidies of about $23 million, make Lethbridge an attractive option.

"I'd just like to thank the Alberta provincial government, the city of Lethbridge and the federal government for their support in helping us go forward with this project," he said.

Cavendish Farms has plants on P.E.I. employing several hundred people. The potato industry accounted for about 12 per cent of the island's workforce in 2015 and is responsible for about $1 billion of direct and indirect economic benefit to the province's economy.

Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman is looking for some of that economic action here in Alberta.

Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman

Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman says the new $360-million plant is the single-largest construction investment in the city's history. (Andrew Brown/CBC)

"What a fantastic day for our city. It's the biggest, single investment in Lethbridge, $360 million. It is so exciting. It boosts the total current investment in construction in our city to over $1 billion for the very first time in our city's history," Spearman said.

"The new plant today, which is going to be huge, uses a little more than 80 acres of the 280 acres that Cavendish purchased and we are hopeful that Cavendish will continue to invest in our city and continue to diversify our economy and their offerings as a company."

Company had other options

Premier Rachel Notley said the expansion will bring jobs to the area.

"This is going to create jobs in the city of Lethbridge, both in the construction and the operations phase, but it's going to significantly increase the farm receipts in the area and in the potato-production sector," Notley said.

"We are just very pleased to have been able to attract Cavendish. We know that they were looking at a number of communities across North America and we are very proud that they are coming to Lethbridge."

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley

Premier Rachel Notley says Cavendish Farms was looking at many options for its new plant so she's glad they chose southern Alberta. (Andrew Brown/CBC)

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said Cavendish Farms employed about 12 per cent of P.E.I.'s workforce in 2015. In fact, it was the potato industry in P.E.I. that accounted for 12 per cent of the island's workforce.
    Sep 20, 2017 7:41 AM MT
With files from Andrew Brown