Penford Food Ingredients estimates it will spend almost $10 million to update its Richland plant with new starch-processing technology.
Construction to prepare the facility on 216 University Drive for new equipment began this spring and will cost $1.4 million, according to Richland building permits.
But the entire project will cost much more, said John Randall, president of Penford's food ingredients division.
"It's a significant investment," he said.
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Penford, based in Centennial, Colo., produces several food and industrial products, one of which is starch made at its Richland plant.
The starch is contained in the milky white liquid that oozes from potatoes when cut.
Penford recovers the starch-rich byproduct from potato processors across North America and converts it into dry starch products.
The products are used in many foods -- from cheese to pasta. Most of the starch produced in Richland is used to give fried foods, such as fries and chicken, their crisp texture, Randall said.
Last year, Penford sold more than 150 million pounds of starch, made mostly from potatoes and corn at several plants.
And this fall, when upgrades to the Richland plant are scheduled for completion, Penford can begin producing new products from starch, Randall said.
Details of the new equipment and starch-making process are confidential, Randall said.
The construction project includes remodeling or replacing existing rooms for the new equipment and adding a new packaging room with maintenance platforms at the facility.
Penford will add as many as five full-time positions to its staff of 20 when the upgrade is finished, Randall said.