The Little Potato Co. is forking over more than US$20 million to spread its roots to Wisconsin.
Officials from the Canada-based company — which specializes in cultivating the petite creamer potato — announced April 7 they will open a U.S. head office and packing facility in DeForest, Wisc.
Sandy Gleddie, vice-president of operations for The Little Potato Co., said the 130,000-square-foot facility will hire 50 people when the building opens in January 2017 and the staff will grow to 130 in the next two to three years.
The addition of jobs in the food industry is an exciting prospect in a region that has been rocked by closure announcements at Oscar Mayer, which is closing its 1,000-worker plant on Madison’s North Side by early 2017, and Tyson Foods, which by year’s end will close a Jefferson pepperoni plant that employs 400 people.
“It’s a proactive effort to realign some of the skill sets from the closings,” said Sam Blahnik, community development director for DeForest. “As [the businesses] go out, we’ll be opening up opportunities for (workers) to come here.”
The US$20-million project is being assisted by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. with $740,000 in business development tax credits, which are earned through investment and job creation requirements, according to the company and WEDC.
“By locating its U.S. headquarters in DeForest, The Little Potato Co. leverages Wisconsin’s strong agricultural history and global leadership in food processing, tapping exceptional educational resources and an unmatched supply chain,” WEDC secretary and CEO Mark Hogan said in a statement.
The facility could have been built closer to where the potatoes are being grown — in the area around Coloma, in central Wisconsin — but there were logistical concerns that brought the development to DeForest instead, Gleddie said.
Setting up in a smaller community would make it more difficult to hire the people the company needs for the plant. “This is a compromise to be as close as we can to where we grow our potatoes and as close as we can to the infrastructure,” he added.
The Little Potato Co. considered several locations before choosing Wisconsin for its first U.S. facility.
The criteria included finding a quality potato growing region, access to transportation routes and the availability of workers, according to the statement. Wisconsin farmers grew potatoes on 62,500 acres last year, ranking No. 3 in the nation, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
But the feeling of home is one of the things that ultimately sold the location to The Little Potato Co.
“We decided to stay in Wisconsin because we really, truly felt at home as soon as we came,” Gleddie said. “The same things that are important to you guys are important to us.”
For more information, visit Wisconsin State Journal.