$3M provincial investment made in Maidstone's Thomas Canning
Money given to maker of Utopia brand expected to help ease loss of Heinz
Ontario will pour $3 million into upgrading the Utopia/Thomas Canning food processing plant in Maidstone.
The province says the money will be used to build a new state-of-the-art fruit and vegetable processing facility that it says will support local farmers and create 40 new full-time jobs.
Windsor West Liberal MPP Teresa Piruzza made the announcement Friday at Douglas Marketing on Walker Road.
"It gives us more acreage for the growers and more work in the plant for those employees that are there," said Bill Thomas, a co-owner of the plant, which cans tomatoes for the Utopia brand.
Thomas also said the provincial money will help them build a new plant on adjacent property which will nearly triple their capacity and allow them to open up new markets in North America, China and Africa.
The new facility will process “a significant amount of locally grown tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables,” according to the media release issued by the province.
Farmer Bob Kerr already grows organic tomatoes for the business. He has been growing 143 acres for Heinz. Thomas will pick now pick up almost all of the tomatoes he has been shipping to Heinz.
"It's really exciting to me to see Thomas canning are investing in the future," Kerr said.
It's believed the investment will help replace some of, but not all, the job loss in the local tomato market, expected to occur when the Heinz plant in Leamington ceases operation in June.
However, Thomas could not confirm any numbers.
"I don't know yet," he said. "We have to put together a team ourselves to create a plan ... but definitely I'm not saying it's no."
Meanwhile, Piruzza declined to comment on the future of the Heinz plant.
"There are a number of businesses that are working with both Ministry of Economic Trade and Development and Employmet and the Ministery of Agriculture and Food," said Piruzza. "At this point it would be early for me to speculate in terms of where those businesses are and what the different plans are, because I haven't seen all of them that have come forward."
The new Thomas facility is expected to be operating in 2015.