Potato processing plant opens in Lethbridge, will provide nearly 240 full-time jobs

A $430-million frozen potato processing plant in Lethbridge opened its doors Thursday and will bring nearly 240 jobs to the area.

$430M facility represents largest private investment in history of Lethbridge

Local and provincial officials joined with representatives from Cavendish Farms to open the company's $430-million frozen potato processing facility on Thursday in Lethbridge. (Mike Symington/CBC)

A $430-million frozen potato processing plant in Lethbridge opened its doors Thursday and is expected to bring nearly 240 jobs to the area.

The 346,000-square-foot Cavendish Farms facility, which broke ground in the community in 2017, replaces the company's former plant in the southern Alberta city.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the new facility was the result of years of collaboration.

"We are proud of what Alberta's ag producers do every day at the highest standards to produce food for the world," he said. "We do so with a shrinking environmental footprint with growing yields using smart agro-tech in an industry that is rooted in our past but is very much focused on the future, driven by innovation."

The cost of the facility was initially pegged at $360 million, but decisions made during construction increased the cost to $430 million, according to the company, which is headquartered in New Brunswick.

Cavendish Farms' new Lethbridge plant is 346,000 square feet and will employ 238 employees. (Cavendish Farms)

Increased capacity

According to company president Robert K. Irving, the new facility allows the company to triple its production in Alberta.

In 1980, Cavendish Farms operated a single plant on Prince Edward Island, shipping an average of 25 trailer loads per week.

"Today, we have four frozen potato processing facilities, and an appetizer plant. With Lethbridge at full capacity — which I can assure you, is just around the corner — we'll ship almost 1,000 trailers per week," Irving said. "We've come a long way."

Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman says the new facility represents the fruits of a push by city officials to draw private investment to the community. (Mike Symington/CBC)

No small potatoes

At $430 million, the facility is the largest single investment in the history of Lethbridge, said the mayor.

"What an amazing investment and what a credit to the city of Lethbridge," said Mayor Chris Spearman.

Irving said the opening of the new facility marked an exciting chapter for the city and the company.

"It took a great deal of planning, time and effort to get where we are today. It was a process that started nearly three years ago," he said. "And many of you have been with us every step of the way. We're very thankful."