Simplot's $30 million freezer project clearing Grand Forks planning hurdles

An appearance before the Grand Forks City Council and an approved site plan is all that's standing between J.R. Simplot Co. and a $30 million addition to its Grand Forks location.

An appearance before the Grand Forks City Council and an approved site plan is all that's standing between J.R. Simplot Co. and a $30 million addition to its Grand Forks location.

On Wednesday, Grand Forks' Planning and Zoning Commission voted 8-0 to approve multiple items that make way for a 110,000-square-foot "high bay freezer," according to city documents, at the agribusiness' potato processing plant near Gateway Drive.

All items on the project need City Council approval-and site plan approval from city staff. Once the city does that, the building can become reality.

But the project still needs a green light from Simplot itself. Josh Jordan, a spokesman for the company, said it's still under review.

"We're still at the proposal stage finalizing exactly what (the project is) going to look like and ensuring it's going to be approved," he said. "I'm not sure what kind of impact it's going to have on the local economy. We just see it as an opportunity, an area where there is opportunity."


Jordan added he could not say if the addition would create new jobs, or if the freezer structure would be an expansion of or new addition to existing technology at the site. He did note the project is expected to be about $30 million.

According to city records, the 165-foot-tall building will be used to "freeze and store frozen product in preparation for shipping to customers and serve as a primary distribution center for Simplot Co."

Simplot's operations in Grand Forks produce multiple potato products, including french fries and hash browns, which are shipped and sold in the U.S. and abroad.

City Planner Brad Gengler said he's excited about the development, adding it shows Simplot's "commitment" to Grand Forks.

"When you do have a large corporate entity in town, it's nice when they're able to invest even more in the facility," he said. "That kind of shows confidence that they believe Grand Forks is a good market and they want to be here."

Klaus Thiessen, president and CEO of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development, praised the move as well.

"We're just encouraged that Simplot is investing in our community," Thiessen said. "The bottom line is one of our core foundations for our economy is agrifood, and Simplot is a significant company in the agrifood sector. The fact that they're here ... is good for us, good for the region."

The items given final approval on Wednesday include zoning that helps prepare for construction and a simplified legal description of the Grand Forks property.


A third item previously approved by the commission is expected to appear before the City Council alongside them.

Commissioners absent from the meeting included Jim Galloway, Bill Hutchison, Alex Reichert, Molly Soeby and Mayor Mike Brown.

Other business

The commission also offered preliminary approval to two items that redesigned the road layout at the Grand Forks Business Park, which includes 60 acres of available land administered by the Growth Development Fund Committee and owned by the Jobs Development Authority on the 2400 block of South 48th Street.

An 8-0 vote allowed planned-for roads to be removed, allowing for more land and less development costs passed along to future businesses.

Final approval still is needed from the Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council.

Sam Easter is a freelance reporter who has been a regular contributor to the Herald since 2019. He covers a variety of topics, including government and politics.

In 2015, he joined the Herald’s staff as City Hall reporter, covering North Dakota politics at all levels and conducting Herald investigations through early 2018, when he began his freelancing career.

Easter can be reached at or via Twitter via @samkweaster.
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