Hog plant fuels boom in Neepawa
Hog processor Springhill Farms plans to add a second shift – and 250 jobs – at its Neepawa plant this spring as its parent company rebrands itself.
The expansion comes despite a global recession and American protectionist policies that have largely closed the U.S. market to Canadian pork.
Guy Baudry, general manager of the Springhill plant, said the company has stayed in the pork-processing game by developing overseas markets for fresh and frozen pork while making inroads in the Canadian market.
About 60 per cent of the plant’s sales are offshore, with customers in Japan, South Korea, Russia, China, Australia and South America.
Springhill Farms' fortunes have soared since it was purchased three years ago by La Broquerie-based pig-production powerhouse Hytek Ltd.
In early 2008, it employed just over 300 workers and processed 300,000 hogs a year.
In the first phase of the plant’s expansion two years ago, it tripled its production capacity and added about 250 workers.
By the end of April, it plans to slaughter and process 5,500 hogs per day or the equivalent of 1.4 million a year. The plant will employ about 800 workers.
The Springhill plant expansion has created a population and housing boom in Neepawa and nearby Gladstone and Minnedosa, with immigrant workers from South Korea, Ukraine and the Philippines filling many of the new jobs.
And it’s also caused Hytek, the country’s largest hog producer, to rebrand itself as a food company. Beginning Feb. 1, Hytek will go by the name of HyLife. Meanwhile, later this year, Springhill Farms will change its name to HyLife Foods to sound less like a technology company.
HyLife also sounds a lot like a famous American beer brand, but the folks at Hytek said they’ve done their legal work.
“We have trademarked the name in a lot of countries (including the U.S.) and we will not have any issues with that,” said Claude Vielfaure, Hytek’s vice-president and chief operating officer.
Hytek’s success as a pork processor comes despite an initial setback in southeast Winnipeg, where it tried to build a slaughter plant several years ago. The plan was aborted after city residents raised a stink about the idea of living next to a pig processor.
That’s when the company decided to buy Springhill Farms. “It wasn’t our Plan A but we’re making the best of our Plan B,” Vielfaure said with a laugh.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 29, 2011 B4