To feed the world’s growing appetite for french fries, Lamb Weston announced Thursday it will build a new, state-of-the-art processing line at its Hermiston facility on Westland Road.
The $250 million expansion will add capacity for another 300 million pounds of fries per year, while also creating approximately 170 full-time jobs, according to the company.
Tom Werner, president and CEO of Lamb Weston, said demand for french fries around the world has challenged the industry’s capacity to keep up in recent years.
“This investment in a new french fry processing line in the Columbia Basin reflects Lamb Weston’s continued commitment to support our strategic partners as they continue to grow their businesses in North America and abroad,” Werner said.
Elsewhere around the basin, Lamb Weston finished a similar $200 million expansion at its french fry factory in Richland, Washington, which opened in October.
The company also spent $200 million to expand its Boardman facilities at the Port of Morrow in 2014. All potatoes are sourced from local farms.
Shelby Stoolman, spokeswoman for Lamb Weston, said the Hermiston facility was established in 1972 and currently has 450 employees. The new line is expected to be up and running by January 2019, supporting growth in North America and overseas exports to Asia.
“It’s really to keep up with demand,” Stoolman said.
Mark Morgan, Hermiston assistant city manager, said the project is the largest ever investment in the Greater Hermiston Enterprise Zone, both in terms of capital investment and annual payroll.
“We’re very happy that Lamb Weston is choosing to make this investment in the Hermiston area,” Morgan said. “This is an advanced operation, so these are not your run-of-the-mill processing jobs. We anticipate these full time jobs to pay an average of at least $18 per hour, plus benefits.”
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also approved an award from the state’s Strategic Reserve Fund to move the project forward, which she said is part of her focus to boost the economy statewide.
“In addition to supporting our rural economies and booming agriculture industry, this investment provides critical workforce training opportunities in well-paying jobs in Eastern Oregon,” Brown said.
Nathan Buehler, spokesman for Business Oregon, said the state is indeed finalizing the contract on a half-million dollar loan to Lamb Weston. That loan will include requirements for job creation, workforce training and building a wastewater system at the site.