Construction resumes on London’s largest project after seven-week COVID-19 shutdown

Maple Leaf Foods is resuming construction on a $660-million chicken processing plant in London after a nine-week shutdown due to COVID-19, now that Ontario has eased restrictions on essential construction projects.

“We are pleased to resume work at the London site on our world-class poultry plant. Make no mistake, the safety of our people is our first priority. Together with our construction firm, we have a thorough start-up plan ready to go that includes a comprehensive COVID-19 program,” Janet Riley, spokesperson for Maple Leaf, said in a statement to the London Free Press newspaper.

The state-of-the-art plant located at Highbury Avenue and Highway 401 will span 60,000 square-metres on a 40-hectare site. Maple Leaf Foods says the plant is anticipated to be open for early-to-mid 2021. Hixson/Walter Fedy is the architect and structural engineer on the project that is expected to use 4,400 tons of steel.

Walters Group Inc. was selected to supply, fabricate, apply coatings, deliver and install the structural steel and metal roof deck for the new plant.

When fully operational, the facility will replace three aging plants that will close in the province, Maple Leaf said, adding they will invest an initial $605.5 million into the plant that will serve Eastern Canada and an additional $5 million into related projects over the next five years. The Ontario government committed $34.5 million and $28 million will come from the Canadian government.

Chicken is the most consumed and fastest growing meat protein in Canada.

According to Maple Leaf statements, this new plant is the largest single-site investment ever made in the Canadian food sector. Production from three of Maple Leaf’s existing plants – each at least 50 years old – will eventually be consolidated into the new facility, the company said.

The St. Marys plant is expected to close by late 2021 and Toronto and Brampton facilities will close by mid- to late-2022.

The modern facility will deliver more than 30 per cent cost savings due to lower labour costs, overhead and distribution and a one-third increase in capacity that can expand to meet growing demand.

It is being called “the single most technologically advanced facility of its kind in the world.”

Established in 1991, Maple Leaf Foods employs more than 11,000 people across Canada and exports to more than 20 global markets.

 

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