150 new jobs added with Lamb Weston Richland expansion - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

150 new jobs added with Lamb Weston Richland expansion

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RICHLAND, WA - Lamb Weston officially opened its Richland plant expansion yesterday. In the process, adding another production line to its operation as one of the largest employers in the region.

The new plant is a fairly large facility: the building that houses the new processing line is 290,000 square feet, and millions of pounds of potatoes will come through the building every year.

Richland Plant Manager Mark Schuster says that for now, they'll process straight-cut fries through the new line...but they can always change based on demand.

Lamb Weston has operations throughout the world, but Schuster says a couple factors came into play when they decided where to expand and add this new processing line.

"Why is Richland such a great place?" Schuster said. "Well, there's lots of reasons. Number one; the basin area, where we're at right now is a great potato growing region, one of the best in the world. We also have great access to transportation and the ports."

With the addition of line five, Lamb Weston's Richland plant now has the capability of producing 600 million pounds of potato product every year...and Lamb Weston is adding 150 jobs to the Richland plant because of the expansion.

Lamb Weston says they're constantly looking for new ways to expand and create new jobs, but when companies grow like this, it doesn't just affect the company itself. People we spoke with yesterday say it can affect the whole community.

Carl Adrian, president and CEO of the Tri-Cities Economic Development Council says when a company like Lamb Weston expands, it creates a ripple effect in the business world.

"When companies like Lamb Weston select a community and make this kind of investment, it causes other companies to say, 'jeez, there must be something there, maybe we need to look there, too,'" said Adrian.

The 150 positions added to work at the expanded Richland plant include many operator and technical skill-type jobs that Lamb Weston officials say are important for the operations at the new production line.

Lamb Weston's Innovation Kitchen is also trying to stay one step ahead of the status quo.

"A lot of people in history, maybe a french fry was a french fry," said Schuster. "Well the team here is not satisfied with that. They're always looking at new ways to do it. Maybe it's a new way to prepare it, maybe it's a new way to cook it or a new side that goes with it."

With a global company like Lamb Weston, these chefs have to keep not only local restaurants in mind when developing new concepts...but menus around the world to more than 100 countries.

"The products that the Richland plant makes, maybe about 70 to 75 percent of the products stay within North America, but 25 to 30 percent are exported."

Schuster says it takes just a few months to jump from initial concept in the Innovation Kitchen to actual production in stories and restaurants...but restaurants are always looking to keep their menus fresh, so the Innovation chefs have to stay on their toes.

"There's always new markets, new customers that are looking for different products. If you own a restaurant and you say ' I want to do something to be a little bit different, what can we do for that?' That's where the skill of our team in here really shines."

So the next time you see a new frozen dinner in the store or a new version of fries at your local bar or restaurant? The dish may have been conceived right here in the Innovation Kitchen in Richland.