Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Maple Lodge Farms personnel were welcomed to Welcome Friday to announce some good news for the community, as well as for the company.
Company chief executive officer Michael Burrows said he was very excited to announce an $8-million investment that should potentially double the capacity of the operation. The Welcome facility will see almost 23,000 sq. ft. added to make it a 56,000 sq. ft. operation. And the 24-million chicks it handles in a typical year should double to 48-million.
This will make it the biggest of their four Ontario hatcheries, and the new capacity in Welcome gives Maple Lodge the potential to handle 106-million chicks a year.
Director of hatchery operations Glen Taschuk said that it will add new jobs “in the double digits.”
“It’s an opportunity to better serve our farm community in Southern Ontario,” Burrows told the group gathered for the ground breaking.
The operation was originally Curtis Chicks, dating back to the 19th century. The family-owned Maple Lodge Farms hatchery began in 1928. Maple Lodge Farms purchased Curtis Chicks in 1990. The expansion demonstrates the company’s commitment to the community, Burrows said, “and this will provide new opportunities as well.”
The investment includes state-of-the-art equipment and improved processes that will modernize the hatchery and make it an exemplary operation of its kind, “not only in Canada but, I would say, globally,” he added.
“Quality chicks are a real focus for us, if we want to continue to give our farming community the very best opportunity to grow great chicks.”
Port Hope Mayor Bob Sanderson said the municipality has a very good working relationship of long standing, with both Curtis Chicks and Maple Lodge Farms.
The expansion enhances all aspects of their strategic plan and brings the potential for a variety of jobs, Sanderson added. And the Fox Road location puts it in a key area, where the business park has been expanded and there are plans to extend adjacent Pemberton Road.
“The relationship we have with companies like this is critical to us. This is a good fit,” he declared.
“Thank you very much for your confidence in this community, your confidence in the facility and the investment you are making. We will do everything as a community that we can to help you.”
As a former veterinarian, Sanderson was pleased to greet fellow vet (and plant general manager) Dr. Rachel Ouckama. Dr. Ouckama has been with the plant for 33 years, Burrows said, “a real key person in writing the proposal for expansion and overseeing the project.”
The doctor said the plant has some important assets, such as its proximity to Highway 401 and its dedicated staffers.
“It has been a wonderful company to work for, and we’re very excited,” she said.
Burrows congratulated three other employees for long-time service. Egg and chick co-ordinator
Sandra Palmer, a 35-year employee, was not present. But maintenance worker Tim Woodcox (34 years) and laboratory technician Sue Retallick (40 years) did step forward to accept commemorative gifts.
“I appreciate working with everyone, and hopefully we can make it grow even more,” Woodcox said.
Retallick recalled starting work with Curtis Chicks when it was just a small rectangular building.
“To watch it grow over the years and going forward to more growth – it’s impressive,” she said.
“As long as my committed co-workers stick around, I might stick around for another 40.”