© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
Premier Robert Ghiz, left, and Ed Flanagan, president of Wyman's P.E.I., announced that Wyman's blueberry plant in Morell will double its capacity and workforce with funding committed Oct. 8.
Prince Edward Island's blueberry industry is getting a boost thanks to almost $18 million in support for Wyman's of P.E.I. from the provincial government to expand its facility in West St. Peters.
Ed Flanagan, the company's president, said for years Wyman's has had to ship millions of pounds of blueberries off-Island because there wasn't enough capacity, but they will be able to stay in P.E.I. thanks to the new state-of-the-art factory.
"This new factory is the largest capital project in our history," he said.
Wyman's and the provincial government held a joint news conference outside the company's processing plant Tuesday to announce the funding agreement.
What it means in terms of the business is the addition of about 10 million pounds of blueberry processing capacity each year thanks to a new cold-storage unit.
Wyman's expects to double its workforce by adding 25 full-time and 75 seasonal employees.
The company will get $425,000 in labour rebates once it creates those new jobs and $75,000 from Skills P.E.I. for employee training.
Along with its operations in Maine, where the company is based, and in P.E.I., Wyman's owns about 1,000 acres of blueberry fields in New Brunswick.
Flanagan said expanding to New Brunswick was a serious consideration for the company, but it wanted to build in P.E.I.
"That was always our first choice and it worked out."
Wyman's also has a farm division in P.E.I. that includes fields as part of its grower and processor model.
The company broke ground on its expansion in July with plans to have it open in time for July 2014.
Premier Robert Ghiz said the investment is good for jobs, the economy and agriculture in P.E.I.
"Really it's a win, win, win situation," he said.
The province and Wyman's were in negotiations for about a year before finalizing the deal a few months ago, Ghiz said.
"We put together a deal that was attractive and to be able to secure our relationship with them in Prince Edward Island."