Little Potato Co.’s New Custom-Designed Plant Is A Big Deal
08 Aug 2022 4 Minute Read
It’s no small potatoes.
Little Potato Co. has inked a 20-year lease on a 240,000 sq. ft. custom-designed and fully automated production facility in Nisku just outside Edmonton, a substantial facilities upgrade that will enable this homegrown company to expand its reach across North America.
CBRE’s Trevor Schmidt coordinated the sizeable transaction, only the latest instance in which he’s helped Little Potato Co. to find a more suitable location for its ever-expanding operations.
The Edmonton-based company, which specializes in smaller Creamer potatoes that can be cooked in mere minutes, was founded by CEO Angela Santiago and her father in 1996.
When CBRE’s Schmidt came upon their first factory back in 2006, he admits there was room for improvement. “It was a small building in the wrong location, but they had made it work.”
Seeing a chance to support their growth, Schmidt called Angela and discovered she and her father were looking to expand out of the building. “It was a happy coincidence,” Schmidt says. He promptly moved Little Potato Co. into a 35,000 sq. ft. building in West Edmonton.
Schmidt kept in touch and before long Little Potato Co. informed him they needed to grow again. So he found them a new home in a 85,000 sq. ft. facility with increased automation; they eventually expanded into 100,000 sq. ft. in that same location.
It still wasn’t enough. About eight years into their lease Schmidt warm-called Little Potato Co. and was told by the plant manager that they were “jammed to the rafters,” but with four years remaining on the lease term.
“It’s not as much time as you think,” Schmidt recalls telling his client. And there was nothing currently in the market that would have been able to satisfy the company’s requirements. “You’ll need a design-build facility,” he advised. “You’ll have to build this yourselves.”
Schmidt spoke to Little Potato Co.’s landlord, York Realty, and learned that they had a land position on the other side of town in Nisku that might suffice.
It turned out to be the perfect site for the new facility, with highway exposure on the road in from the airport. When Angela and her husband Frank saw it, “they said it was the spot for them,” Schmidt says.
They spent two years on designs and modifications for the plant, which will be fully automated designed and manufactured in Europe. The challenge here, Schmidt notes, was accommodating washing, sorting and packing production line equipment in a way that wouldn’t require a terribly unconventional building. “Landlords don’t typically want to be left with a white elephant or something that looks like Dr. Seuss designed it.”
After many hours of design modifications of to the production line, a conventional building design was arrived at. With those details hammered out, Little Potato Co. signed a 20-year lease for the 240,000 sq. ft. space, which Schmidt says is a “significant step” for this hometown success on its path to North American small potato domination.
The Little Potato Co. plant deal is also significant because it marks a diversification of uses in Nisku, which has traditionally been a hotbed for the energy service sector. “To have an agricultural processing facility there, it’s a welcome new use,” says Schmidt. “The entire Leduc County council was out for the sod-turning ceremony. They’re excited about this project.”
The developer of the Little Potato plant, York Realty, built a 400,000 square foot building across the road, 180,000 sq. ft. of which has been leased to Hello Fresh. And Amazon has a just-in-time distribution centre in the same industrial park. “We’re seeing some healthy diversification away from the energy sector,” says Schmidt.
Word is getting out about Edmonton, he adds, with its abundance of available land for industrial development and its accommodating local authorities. “We’re seeing users trickle in who couldn’t find space in Vancouver end up here.”
Confidence in Edmonton industrial is high. Panatonni built a 548,000 sq. ft. building there on a speculative basis without signed tenants and it was pre-leased prior to construction; Hopewell is now building a 493,000 sq. ft. industrial building, also on spec.
“It represents a big market shift,” says Schmidt. “Edmonton is now in a position where we can start attracting the large distribution businesses that used to go to Calgary.”
In other words, Edmonton industrial has a lot of meat to go with those little potatoes.
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