Simplot to Build Plant in Caldwell, Idaho

J. R. Simplot Co., Boise, Idaho, is planning to build a potato processing plant in Caldwell, Idaho, with site preparation anticipated to begin next May and start-up expected by spring of 2014.

However, it replaces a current plant in Caldwell and also foretells the closing of two other Idaho facilities. In all, nearly 800 jobs will be cut when the plants are consolidated.

The 380,000+IBM-sq.-ft. plant, which will be built on the site of the company's original processing plant in Caldwell, will help Simplot remain competitive in the food industry while providing significant environmental benefits, according to President /CEO Bill Whitacre.

The new plant will be far more efficient than the plants slated for closure, with a smaller carbon footprint and less use of water and energy, company statements said. And it will produce the same output as the three older plants.

"Competition in the food industry has become challenging, with profit margins shrinking and costs continuing to rise," said Whitacre. "These factors and other considerations have made it important to the future well-being of our food business that we build this new plant."

Simplot is not divulging the cost of the new facility, but Whitacre said it will be the largest single investment the company has ever made in Idaho.

The new plant will replace the company's existing potato processing plant in Caldwell, with additional closures in the next 2-3 years of facilities at Aberdeen and Nampa, Idaho, resulting in the loss of almost 800 jobs.

"We struggled with this very difficult decision and we know the closures will have an impact on many of our employees and their families," said Whitacre. "We will be doing what we can to ease the transition as it occurs, including providing separation packages, onsite counseling, out-placement services, and other forms of assistance. We are committed to providing transitional support for our employees, and we hope that making this announcement so far in advance of the closures will help them to adequately plan for their futures."

Most of the job losses will not occur until the closure of the three existing plants. The new plant will employ about 250, and current employees will have the opportunity to apply for positions there.

The company began operations at the Aberdeen plant in 1973 and acquired the Nampa plant from Nestle in 2000. J. R. Simplot began dehydrating operations on the Caldwell site in 1941 and subsequently converted the facility to process frozen potatoes in the early 1950s.

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