Crews in Lethbridge, Alta. are working to prep and pour the foundation for the largest single project in the city’s history.
Mayor Chris Spearman said the $350-million Cavendish frozen potato processing plant brings the investment in construction projects in the city to $1 billion for the first time.
According to Cavendish, construction on the new plant will begin with foundation work in December and be completed by fall 2019. Supplier and vendor procurement has begun and awarding local contracts, when possible, is a priority.
"The opportunity to expand in Lethbridge, and remain within the region is very important to us," said Robert Irving, president of Cavendish Farms, in a press release. "Lethbridge has provided Cavendish Farms with a cross-Canada presence that has helped fuel our growth and allowed us to reach key markets."
The new plant will almost triple Cavendish Farms' annual production capacity in Lethbridge to meet growing demand. At the height of construction, it is anticipated there will be 400 construction workers onsite and 750,000 person hours of work.
"It was a competitive situation," said Spearman, recalling several years ago when the city beat out others in the U.S. and Canada for the project.
While Cavendish will only use about 80 acres for the new plant, 288 acres were purchased, leaving Spearman hopeful the company will expand its operations with affiliated brands in the future.
"It's a massive investment," said Spearman. "It's exciting that these projects are happening and it is great for people involved in construction in the city."
But it's just one bright spot of many in a city that has been able to ride out the economic turmoil oil and gas prices has wrought on other cities.
"The community is very connected and I think that is a big part of the success and a big draw," said Spearman. "I consider myself the luckiest mayor in Alberta. We have come out virtually unscathed thanks to our diversified economy. I've said that in a good year we grow by two per cent and in a bad year we grow by two per cent."
One of the peripheral benefits of the downturn has been the low cost and availability of construction. This has helped spur other projects in the city leading to its record value in building permits, he added.
The University of Lethbridge is building a $250-million science facility. The city is in phase two of a $155-million leisure centre and a downtown revitalization program has seen more than $1.5 million go to assist in building mixed-use buildings. The city has also used the downturn as an opportunity to do various infrastructure projects like expanding roads.
"Generally the city is in good shape and will to continue to be as these projects will take several years to complete," said Spearman.