It just invested $200M in Richland; Lamb Weston now looking at Hermiston

Just two months after it dedicated its $200 million french fry line in Richland, Lamb Weston Holdings Inc. is at it again.

The Boise-based frozen potato giant says it will build a similar production line in Hermiston to keep up with global demand.

Lamb Weston, one of the Mid-Columbia’s largest private employers, will invest $250 million to expand its french fry processing capacity at its existing facility in Hermiston. The expansion will add a line capable of producing 300 million pounds of frozen french fries per year. The line is modeled on the newly open production plant in Richland.

It will be completed by late 2019, Lamb Weston said in a statement Thursday.

The new line will support growing demand in North America as well as Asia. The expansion will add 170 full-time positions to the Hermiston plant, which currently employs 450.

The company will process Columbia Basin potatoes on the new line, said spokeswoman Shelby Stoolman.

The Hermiston plant was constructed in 1972, one of several Lamb Weston facilities in northeastern Oregon. In 2014, Lamb Weston, then a part of ConAgra Foods, completed an earlier $200 million project that added a 192,000-square-foot addition at Boardman.

The Hermiston project is supported with an investment from Oregon’s Strategic Reserve Fund, approved by Gov. Kate Brown.

In related news, Lamb Weston declared a quarterly dividend of 19 cents per share of its common stock, payable March 2, 2018, to shareholders of record as of Feb. 2.

Lamb Weston spun off from ConAgra as an independent, publicly traded company in November 2016. Its share price has grown by more than 66 percent since its debut on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “LW”.

The company has more than 4,500 Mid-Columbia employees, including 2,500 in the Tri-Cities. It is one of the largest buyers of Washington-grown potatoes.

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