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Potato-processing plant slated for major overhaul


'This renovation is pretty much from stem-to-stern'


By JOHN O'CONNELL


Capital Press


BURLEY, Idaho -- Officials with McCain Foods USA have announced plans for a major overhaul of their Burley 2 potato processing plant.


The two-year renovation is scheduled to commence this fall and is intended to improve the plant's efficiency. Company officials would not disclose the estimated cost of the project.


"Although the renovation won't increase the plant's capacity or employment, it will position us for greater competitiveness by adding state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment and updated infrastructure," Burley plant manager Jeff McCray said in a press release.


The plant, built in 1964, produces straight-cut, crinkle-cut, coated and other potato products that are distributed throughout North America and exported to Asia.


"This renovation is pretty much from stem-to-stern," McCain spokeswoman Dierdre Dickerson said. "It's knocking down walls and bringing in all new equipment. It's very much like building a new plant within an existing shell."


Dickerson said reduced energy and water consumption at the revamped facility will enable the company to retain its Energy Star rating for the plant through the Department of Energy. Though no financial incentives are tied to the rating, Dickerson said it's a demonstration of the company's commitment to the environment.


Throughout the industry, Dickerson said processing plants are aging, leaving processors with the choice of closing them, modernizing them or renovating them for a different purpose. She said McCain has invested about $30 million in capital improvements at the Burley plant during the past three years


"It does cement our operations. Clearly it means we're dedicated to the area, that we're committed to doing business there and we're looking for the business to grow and not move anywhere," Dickerson said.


Burley Mayor Terry Greenman believes his community's ample access to fresh water and water treatment capacity makes it ideal for business expansion.


"I think this secures them here, which is wonderful. I know it makes them much more efficient and much more effective at what they do," Greenman said.


Greenman said three other businesses in the agricultural industry are considering expansions in Burley, including two in the dairy industry. He declined to divulge names.



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