Grand Forks Simplot plant to close for two weeks
Potato processing facility will undergo cleaning and maintenance.
The J.R. Simplot potato processing plant in Grand Forks will close for two weeks, beginning on Thursday, April 23.
The plant is closing for a period of cleaning and maintenance and was originally scheduled to close in early May. That closing date has been stepped up due to the recent increase of coronavirus cases in Grand Forks County. An April 21 press release from Simplot states no employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Grand Forks facility, or other locations in the county.
“This routine shutdown was originally scheduled for May 7, but the company has moved up the date to align with other efforts in Grand Forks to slow the spread of COVID-19,” stated Josh Jordan, Simplot communications manager.
There have been 128 positive tests for coronavirus for employees and close-contact individuals at GE-owned LM Wind in Grand Forks. On Sunday, April 19, the North Dakota State Mill announced a worker had tested positive for the virus, and 10 other people are not being allowed to return to work because of close contact with that individual.
Simplot employs about 400 people in Grand Forks. Most of those workers will be at home during the cleaning and maintenance period, unless they are involved in the efforts. Simplot conducts cleaning operations in-house. Jordan said the company has asked employees to follow social distancing and other guidelines to protect their health during the shutdown.
“The safety of our customers, employees and the communities where we operate is Simplot’s highest priority,” Jordan said.
The company expects to resume operations in early May.
There has been reduced demand for some products the company makes, including frozen french fries. The reduction comes from restaurants either being closed or operating in a limited fashion. This means the company needs to be careful with the amount of product it has sitting in its freezers, which also accounts for the shutdown in Grand Forks.
“To help offset the impact of this reduced demand, we are staggering routine shutdowns across all of our facilities more often,” Jordan said.
According to Jordan, Simplot began health and safety measures in mid-March. The company has restricted travel and visitors into the facility. Masks are available for employees, and they take staggered breaks. People entering the company also have their temperatures taken.