CENTER – A new and recently completed expansion of the Idaho Pacific Colorado (IPC) potato dehydration operation in Center, underway for several months, has nearly doubled the plant’s production of potato flakes and flour and added 35 new full-time jobs to the local workforce.
IPC announced the completion of the project in a news release last Friday. The company now has 133 full-time employees.
“We are very excited about the expansion, and the positive economic impact our business will have on the local economy,” said Todd Sutton, the company’s Vice President of Operations.
In the addition to the company’s existing business, the expansion positively affects the area economy through the purchase of supplies, materials and services from local businesses, and the purchase of nearly 200 million pounds of raw potatoes from area farms.
IPC invested approximately $6 million in the project, which includes state-of-the-art technology in dehydrated potato flakes and flour manufacturing, and water treatment.
“The new technology will keep our business competitive with our global competition, and will allow our products to continue to be marketed world-wide,” said Tim Ruggles, manager of the plant. “The San Luis Valley is a perfect location for our business due to the quantity and quality of potatoes grown by the local farming operations. We are proud to be a part of the local potato industry.
Included in the project was funding from San Luis Valley Development Resources Group to expand the water treatment facility. “We appreciate the support of the San Luis Valley Resources Development group, which helped make the expansion possible,” noted Sutton.
The potato dehydration process includes sorting, steam peeling, slicing, cooking, and mashing raw potatoes that are than applied to large drum rollers that dry the cooked potatoes to a moisture content of six to nine percent. The dried potatoes come off the drum rollers in a thin sheet that looks like paper. The product is then ground to specific granulations, screened and packaged in sizes ranging from a 22-pound bag up to a 2,000-pound supersack.
IPC has owned and operated the potato dehydration plant in Center since 2001. The business manufactures dehydrated potato flakes and potato flour that are used as ingredients in snack foods, bakery items, soups and stews, retail products for instant mashed potatoes, and in restaurants and cafeterias for mashed potatoes and potato side dishes.
Center Sanitation District role
The Center Sanitation District leases space and facility to Idaho Pacific Corp. for the treatment of agriculture waste. The treatment facility needed to be updated to facilitate better discharge water standards. The new construction will meet the increased demand due to expansion and will make the facility cleaner for the discharge of water to the environment, Center Sanitation Board member Moe Jones explained.
“We have worked hard with them to ensure the sanitation district can serve their needs in hopes their expansion provides additional employment opportunities for the residents in and around Center,” Center Sanitation Board President George Welsh commented in an email Monday.
Jones said he is pleased that the loan will clean up the ditch water that runs through the town, removing any objectionable odor and making water available from the ditch “drinking water quality.” Sanitation District engineer Tim Marcotte was the overseer for the project.
Jones continued to explain that altogether the waste treatment facility for IPC is about $5 million with all of the included equipment they will have installed. The loan is provided to the Sanitation District by the San Luis Valley Development Resources Group but is guaranteed by Idaho Pacific, who will make payments on the loan.
“The reason for the loan is that the sanitation district is the landlord and they (IPC) are the tenant and guarantee payment of this loan,” Jones said. The money helped Center transition from a lagoon system to a closed system, and much of the potato waste currently processed by the sanitation district is being dumped on local fields. The rest is treated and released to the ditch.
Center Mayor Herman Sisneros signed the loan documents. The loan is personally guaranteed by the chief executive officer of Idaho Pacific, Jones said and will run for 12 years, with a balloon payment due at the end of the loan.
Teresa Benns contributed information on the Center Sanitation District.