Maple Leaf Foods to build $660M facility, employ 1,450 in London

Maple Leaf Foods has announced plans to build a $660-million fresh poultry facility that would employ 1,450 people in London.

The company is consolidating operations in London, shutting down three other Ontario plants

Maple Leaf Foods is set to build plant a new $660-million poultry processing facility in London. (CBC)

Maple Leaf Foods has announced plans to build a $660-million fresh poultry facility that would employ 1,450 people in London, Ont.

On Monday, the Canadian packaged meats company said the new 640,000 square-foot facility would be built at a site along Wilton Grove Road, south of the 401, with construction beginning in 2019 and projected to be completed by 2021.

"Not only does it solidify our position as a significant food and beverage processing hub but it also invites other advanced manufacturing companies to check out the unique infrastructure, skill set and the resources available in the community," said Kapil Lakhotia, president of the London Economic Development Corporation (LEDC).

The state-of-the-art facility is said to be one of the most technologically advanced processing plants in the world.

Maple Leaf plant closures hit region

As a result of the investment, production from three other Maple Leaf plants in St. Marys, Brampton and Toronto that employ about 1,600 people will be consolidated into the new facility.

"We deeply regret the impact that these eventual closures will have on our people and communities," said Michael McCain, CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, in a statement Monday.

The company said it plans to provide affected employees with job opportunities at the new facility or other plants it operates.

The plants will close sometime between late 2021 and mid-late 2022.

Meanwhile, Lakhotia said he's "very sensitive to the impact this would have on the facilities that would be closed," noting London has historically felt the impact of massive plant closures including the Kellogg cereal plant back in 2014.

Developing local talent

The LEDC and the City of London have been working with the company to land the deal in London.

The LEDC is working with local institutions including Fanshawe College and Brescia University College to develop talent to work in food and drinks processing, quality assurance and nutritional sciences, among other trades.

News of the investment was announced Monday shortly after 4:00 p.m. Maple Foods and the LEDC will host a press conference Tuesday at the Canadian Centre for Product Validation where Premier Doug Ford is set to lead the official announcement.

with files from Canadian Press