BURLEY — McDonald’s french fries were scrutinized by robotic eyes, peeled, sorted and bagged in a highly automated process Monday as visitors toured the new McCain Foods USA plant during the company’s grand opening.
The company is the world’s largest frozen potato product manufacturer and supplies french fries and other potato side dishes, appetizers and desserts to customers around the world. The company has operated in Burley for more than 20 years.
Local potato growers, state and city government officials and company dignitaries met outside for a ceremony to commemorate the company’s $200 million expansion. Afterwards, guests were invited to tour the new central receiving warehouse and plant.
“We are blessed as a community to be a part of agriculture,” said Penne Main, president and CEO of the Mini-Cassia Chamber of Commerce. “An expansion of this magnitude secures a lot of jobs and offers stability to the community.”
The company’s commitment to the facility demonstrates the viability of the area, Main said.
After the tour, Main said the plant “was truly impressive.”
Tarah Arnold, with the company’s U.S. corporate affairs, said the new plant has one French fry line, which began operation early this year.
“McCain Foods has a rich history in Idaho, thanks to our dedicated employees, trusted grower partners and the overall community,” said Dale McCarthy, McCain vice president of integrated supply chain. “This $200 million expansion will deepen our roots and commitment in this great state and grow the potato industry for years to come.”
Who knows, he said, “We may be back again in the future.”
Ryan Cranney, whose family has grown potatoes for decades in Mini-Cassia, said the expansion offers “great opportunities for growers.”
The expansion increases the potato market for farmers and “creates a stable market,” Cranney said. McCain worked with current contractors to give them the first chance at the expanded market.
Although the new plant uses automated systems, the expansion also added 180 new jobs.
“There are 736 good jobs here with an average wage of $26.50 an hour,” Idaho Sen. Scott Bedke, R-Oakley said during the ceremony.
Bedke said the company could have chosen to expand anywhere, but it chose Burley.
Burley Economic Development Director Doug Manning said the city began working with the company five years ago on the project, which was temporarily postponed due to market conditions.
Manning said the company’s expansion led to the New Cold automated cold-storage facility, located west of McCain Foods.
“The economic impact is not always seen immediately,” he said, and the McCain Food’s expansion “will likely spur other great things.”
The Burley plants produce and distribute more than 4.7 million pounds of potatoes daily across North America, according to the company. The company was started by Andrew McCain. After McCain passed away in 1953, his wife and four sons turned the company into a frozen food producer. Since 1957 McCain Foods has shipped frozen potato products to customers across the globe. The Burley plant opened in 1960 as Ore-Ida, another frozen potato processor. In 1965 Heinz purchased Ore-Ida and in 1997 McCain Foods bought the plant.
McCain Foods employs more than 20,000 people and operates 53 production facilities on six continents. McCain Foods USA employs 4,000 people and has headquarters in Illinois and has production facilities in Idaho, Maine, Nebraska, Washington and Wisconsin.