The $35 million mill expansion by Rogers Foods was celebrated Tuesday — in part for their tenacity to continue construction during one of Chilliwack’s worst winters in years.
Rogers Foods president Joe Girdner said the new mill tower and warehouse have tripled their capacity.
The construction project was two years in the making, in conjunction with parent company Nisshin Flour Milling of Japan, and the expansion is geared to meeting increased demand for their products.
Girdner thanked project partners, contractors, suppliers, customers, dignitaries and guests at the lavish grand opening on Simpson Road, with speeches, lunch and a ceremonial sake toast from square wooden cups.
The footprint of the new flour mill is more than 10,000 square feet, and it stands five storeys high.
The construction was done safely, with no “lost time” due to accidents, Girdner noted.
A&B Rail put in a new railroad track for Rogers Foods, behind the new mill, which doubled their rail track capacity.
“We need the extra grain capacity to feed the new mill,” said the president.
They now can unload 18 rail cars of grain in a 24-hour shift, thanks to the new track and extra grain-dumping pit.
It’s timely because Rogers officials have seen a spike in demand for their product from south of the border in the Seattle, Portland and California markets.
Specialty blends specific to particular food types have been developed, such as a flour for ramen noodles or for tempura batter. Demand for those special products enabled them to ship to markets in southern California, Arizona, Florida and even New Jersey.
“And those trucks are going by a lot of other competitor flour mills, so there must be something good about that flour,” Girdner told the crowd.
Mayor Sharon Gaetz noted the “severe” weather challenges experienced locally last winter. Chilliwack recorded 82 centimetres of snow on the valley floor.
“The fact that you kept going was a testament to the tenacity and the bravery quite frankly of your team,” said Gaetz. “So thanks very much for that.”
Rogers is now positioned for the “significant increase” in demand for flour products seen in the overall marketplace.
“In fact before we got the construction completed, we were having to bring in flour from our sister mill, Miller Milling, because we had more demand for flour than we had capacity to produce,” said Girdner.
“We’re now happy that we can mill that flour here, which is better for us, but not necessarily that great for our sister mill,” he said, getting a few laughs.
The warehouse expansion is about 32,000 square feet, with six truckload out-bays.
“This project is a major investment for Rogers Foods,” said Takao Yamada, president of Nisshin Flour Milling of Tokyo, Japan.
“So I look forward to Rogers Foods beginning operations in the new mill unit as scheduled so it can continue to increase its sales.”
Yamada praised the good relationship established between Rogers, and its parent company Nisshin, and said he looked forward to working together for many years.
The expansion will allow Rogers Foods to grind an additional 250 metric tonnes of wheat per day with an 80-per-cent capacity increase for the Chilliwack facility.
The mill underwent an expansion of 22 per cent in 2010, but strong demand prompted the decision for a second milling unit. The first mill was built in 2005. Nisshin Flour Milling acquired Rogers Foods in 1989.