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Maple Leaf Foods putting its money where the dough is

By Kevin Werner, News Staff

Call Hamilton the “Food City” rather than the “Steel City.”

Since Maple Leaf Foods decided that Hamilton has the “right ingredients” to grow its company, other food-related businesses have started to look at the municipality as a place to set up shop.

“Hamilton has the right ingredients to the infrastructure, land and skilled resources, and the right economic vision to play a leading role in the future ofCanada’s food industry,” said Michael McCain, president and chief executive officer for Maple Leaf Foods.

McCain, speaking to about 130 people at the Hamilton branch of the Canadian Club’s luncheon, March 28, said Hamilton beat out 24 other municipalities for Maple Leaf Foods to build its $100-million bakery and a $395-million meat processing facility because of its road, air and rail access; skilled labour force and land availability.

Maple Leaf Foods’ new 385,000-square-foot bakery, which officially opened last September, is expected to be at full production by the end of 2012, and employ 330 jobs. Maple Leaf’s three smaller bakeries in the Toronto area are expected to close this year.

Maple Leaf Foods’ 402,000-square-foot meat processing facility is scheduled to serve the entire Canadian market, once the company consolidates its other facilities by the end of 2014.

Maple Leaf Foods is scheduled to start building the meat processing facility this spring, with production expected to begin in 2013. The company’s 87,000-square-foot processing plant inStoney Creekis expected to close in 2014 when its lease expires.

McCain said he expects the company to announce within the “next few weeks” where it will build its new distribution centre in the city.

McCain said while he didn’t have any announcement to make, he did say that Maple Leaf Foods will be putting resources into itsHamiltonplants over the years.

“I have no doubt there will be additional investments in the community in the future,” he said. “We have a lot on our plate.”

Hamilton’s food and beverage sector has grown over the years, with over 4,400 people employed, according to the city’s economic development analysis. Food manufacturing includes sugar and confectionary, meat product, bakeries and tortilla manufacturing. McCain said Maple Leaf Foods is one of Tim Hortons’ largest customers. Tim Hortons established a new coffee bean roaster in the Ancaster BusinessPark.

Neil Everson, director of economic development, said since Maple Leaf Foods announced it was making Hamilton its home base for bakery goods and meat processing, other companies are taking another look at the city for possible re-location.

“We are getting more calls from food companies,” he said.

McCain did announce the company was providing $25,000 in funds and food to the Glanbrook Home Support program. The charitable organization provides supportive services to seniors and adults with disabilities to live independently.

Maple Leaf Foods has been forced to re-organize how it produces food for competitive reasons, said McCain  In the U.S., said McCain, Kraft Foods, for instance, has two plants producing hot dogs for the country’s entire 300 million population. Canada, with only 30 million people, has five plants producing hot dogs.

Competition in the food industry has been cutthroat. Between 2004 to 2011 40 food producers across the country have closed laying off 6,400 people, he said.

He said by consolidating their production in one area, it means “increasing our production volume, establish longer runs, and realizing procurement and distribution savings, which lower per unit costs and increase return on investment,” said McCain.

The company is already pressuring the Canadian government to enter into a free trade deal withSouth Korea, he said. The recent free trade deal between the U.S. and South Korea only makes Canada’s food production industry that much less competitive with its American counterparts.

 

 

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