Neepawa's population grows as pork plant expands
The western Manitoba town of Neepawa is expected to nearly double in size over the next few years, thanks to the expansion of a nearby pork processing plant.
The workforce at the HyLife Foods plant in Neepawa has tripled, as it has added a second shift and brought in 375 workers in the past few months alone.
Many of the workers are coming from the Philippines, as part of the provincial nominee program.
Guy Baudry, HyLife's senior vice-president and general manager, says the company is hiring as many local people as it can, but it simply can't fill all the jobs.
"Everybody that's interested and eligible to work at HyLife Foods is working at Hylife Foods. We can't keep up," he said.
The arrival of the new workers has led to other additions in Neepawa, such as an Asian grocery store and a restaurant that serves Filipino cuisine.
"I'm one of the lucky ones that [were] hired here by HyLife," said Rex Toledo, who moved to Neepawa from the Philippines three years ago to work as a quality assurance technician.
These days, Toledo is settling in Neepawa. His family has joined him, and he has purchased a house in town.
Housing, classroom crunch
Neepawa's population was most recently pegged at 3,629 in the 2011 census, but Mayor Ken Waddell says it's projected to reach 5,500 in the next three to four years.
"Well, it's like a roller-coaster — a pretty high-speed roller-coaster," Waddell said.
"We have to treat it like a large bus, and we better be in the driver's seat."
He said the growth has put a squeeze on local infrastructure and created a shortage of affordable housing.
"Right now, we have … 500 people who would rather be in a family home than in a suite or a rented bedroom or something along that line," Waddell said.
"There's 30 units of housing under construction in Neepawa right now, but we need 500 in the next three to four [years]."
Neepawa's two schools have already seen almost double the number of students, with another 300 expected to arrive in the next few years.
Jason Young, the superintendant at the Beautiful Plains School Division, said school enrolment rates have been declining in nearby rural communities, but not in Neepawa.
"It's a very good problem to have. We see it as an opportunity, not as a problem, for sure," he said.
Young said the school division has already added some portable classrooms, and officials have asked the Manitoba government for a new middle school.