NOT even light rain could dampen the spirits today, July 3, 2020, as the first sod was turned on the road upgrades to support the new Thomas Foods International facility.
The start of the new road works to the new multi-million dollar facility marks a major step forward for one of the region's biggest employers following the devastating fire in 2018 which destroyed Thomas Foods International's former Murray Bridge facility.
The Federal and State governments have provided $14 million, on a 50-50 basis, to deliver road access to the meat processing facility to be built six kilometres north of Murray Bridge.
The new junction at Mannum Road is set to include a protected turning lane to assist with traffic flow and the works include a 2.2-kilometre public access road to the facility.
Construction will be managed by Rural City of Murray Bridge, and Mayor Brenton Lewis said building the infrastructure was "an important step in supporting the retention of a significant employer and industry for the region".
"Thomas Foods International is one of our largest employers and they are investing several hundred million dollars in a new state-of-the-art processing facility in Murray Bridge, that will employ about 2000 people once it's fully operational," he said.
"The impact of the devastating fire that tore through the original facility in January 2018 was felt deeply throughout our community.
"TFI has shown great loyalty to our community and an unwavering commitment to re-establishing operations in our rural city."
Chief executive officer Michael Sedgman said the project design was developed in partnership between council and the Department of Planning Transport & Infrastructure (DPTI).
"A funding agreement was signed to provide council with the construction budget, to project manage and deliver the road project," he said.
Federal Member for Barker Tony Pasin said the facility was a vital part of not only the Murraylands but the wider industry in South Australia.
"The COVID-19 crisis has reinforced the importance of domestic manufacturing and in particular Australian food processing," Mr Pasin said.
"And it's not just the TFI facility to benefit from these road works ... upgrading this road infrastructure is opening new opportunities for industry in the area as well as making the road safer for all motorists."
Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government minister Stephan Knoll said the project would provide safe road access to the new processing facility for its anticipated 2000 staff, when fully operational, as well as the freight vehicles transporting livestock to the site.
"At the same time, we have just released a tender for shoulder sealing works as part of the $12 million North-South Freight Route, and we're going to fix about 39 kilometres of road between the Sturt Highway and Murray Bridge, further improving access to this new facility."
State Member for Hammond Adrian Pederick said this project was a great example of all three tiers of government working together.
"This new facility will support thousands of direct and indirect jobs well into the future," he said.
"This investment demonstrates both the State and Federal Governments' commitment to regional South Australia and in particular the Murraylands region."
Works are targeted for completion by the end of this year.