'Phenomenal interest' in Leamington post-Heinz, mayor says

Interest in doing business in the town of Leamington has grown since H.J. Heinz Co. announced it would close its plant there in June, the town’s mayor says.

'Leamington turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse,' agri-business expert says

Leamington's Mayor John Paterson speaks about Heinz closing created opportunities. 1:14

Interest in doing business in the town of Leamington has grown since H.J. Heinz Co. announced it would close its plant there in June, the town’s mayor says.

“The amount of interest that has been shown, since that closure announcement, by all kinds of industries across Canada, the United States and Europe, has been phenomenal,” Mayor John Paterson said. “There are a number of other entities that have come forward, not necessarily related to the Heinz plant, but other possibilities. Nothing I can disclose at this time because it’s all confidential.

“We’ve had several meetings with two of the three interested parties. Oddly enough, they came to the forefront after the Heinz closure announcement.”

As CBC News was first to report, Highbury Canco Corp. announced on Thursday it will buy and use the Heinz plant to produce and pack tomato juice and other products for Heinz.

Paterson said he has been in talks with three other companies interested in moving to Leamington.

“All three are, in a roundabout way, tied into food the food industry, food processing and food production. It’s what we do here,” Paterson said.

The mayor called it “too early in the stage to discuss them publicly.”

Chatham-Kent-Essex PC MPP Rick Nicholls told CBC News on Wednesday that he knows of two other companies interested in opening in Leamington to “offer jobs to workers displaced by Heinz.”

“There is more good news down the road but I don’t want to build up expectations," he said.

Paterson said Nicholls “has been working on one of the three I’ve been involved in.”

The interest in Leamington doesn’t surprise John Cranfield, a professor of food, agriculture and resource economics at the University of Guelph.

“Leamington got heaps of PR out of this,” he said of the Heinz closure and the deal struck Thursday. “Leamington’s turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse.”

He called Leamington “a natural draw for food processors.”

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