LISTOWEL, Ont. (CP) -- A $3-million grant from the Ontario government -- along with $40 million in private funds -- will help turn a closed Campbell's Soup plant in this small southwestern community into a "very large hot dog factory," opening the shuttered doors to hundreds of new jobs.
The old soup plant will be overhauled to process poultry into chicken and turkey wieners for export around the world.
Premier Dalton McGuinty was on hand Thursday to announce the grant to Erie Meat Products of Mississauga, Ont., which bought the old soup factory and plans to hire 500 workers over the next three years.
The 50-year-old Campbell's plant had been the biggest employer in the region until it closed when the recession hit, throwing 500 people out of work.
It was important for Listowel and Perth County to "land this big fish," said McGuinty.
"We're not going to let it jump out of the boat," he said. We're going to make sure that it stays here and grows here and does well, not only for the business but for the community as well."
The company praised the province for offering not only financial assistance, but expertise and other resources to help the owners become comfortable with locating in a primarily rural area.
The new owners know how important the plant's re-opening will be to the community.
"I know that a lot of the local people were hurt and their commentary is always about the loss, but they still had this unbelievable resource here," said George Tiesma, vice-president of business development.
"We kind of feel lucky. A lot of people walked through this building and didn't see what we saw, so we're lucky because we still think it's a great investment."
The company expects to sell about four tonnes of wieners a day out of the old soup factory, and hopes to be operational by December.
"By the time we're done with the plant, we could be spending north of $40 million," said Tiesma, "and we started yesterday with a chunk of about $8 (million)."
That kind of news had local politicians gushing in gratitude, noting it would be welcomed by people at the local Irish festival underway in the town of 6,500, which was "devastated" when Campbell's closed.
"I'm sure during North Perth's celebrations at PaddyFest there's absolutely no one in North Perth right now that does not believe in the luck of the Irish," said Julie Behrns, warden of Perth County. "It is truly a lucky day for us."
"The antidote for a lost job is a new job," said Revenue Minister John Wilkinson, who represents the area in the legislature.