Cumberland County’s largest employer is set to grow once again.
John Burkhardt, the director of administration at the Oxford Food Group, confirmed work will soon begin on a two-phased project that includes a new lunchroom and multiple upgrades to the production areas of Plant 1 along with the construction of a new office building in front of Plant 2 that will house the headquarters of the Bragg Group of Companies that overseas activities of Eastlink Communications, Inland Technologies, real estate investments and the Oxford Food Group.
“This is a great news not only for our company, but for Oxford as a community,” Burkhardt told the Amherst News. “It really sets the tone and the foundation is here in Oxford and Nova Scotia.”
Burkhardt said work on the first phase is expected to begin within the next week or so. In front of the original factory, there will be improvements to production lines along with the new lunchroom.
“We’re making a significant investment in that area which will also allow for future growth opportunities,” Burkhardt said. “It’s not only about making sure we have adequate lunchroom facilities for our employees but it’s about maintaining state of the art production facilities. It’s about continuous improvement and the evolution of new technology within the facility.”
The second phase will see a free-standing building to house the Bragg Group of Companies. It’s expected to be about 18,000 square feet.
The first phase is expected to be complete by April 2020 and the second phase during the summer of 2020.
Burkhardt is unable to say how much the project is worth other than to say it’s a “significant investment” in the company. He also could not say how many jobs the expansion will create, but he said there will be new opportunities with some employees relocating within the company from other areas along with the creation of new job opportunities.
“Both of these are about allowing for new growth,” he said. “That includes employment opportunities.”
Bragg was unavailable for comment but in a memo to staff he said the project is important to him.
“Ensuring adequate lunchroom facilities for employees, and maintaining state of the art operations are critical to the success of the business,” Bragg said. “With the office building this represents my continued support of rural communities.”
In an interview with the Amherst News in August 2018, on the 50th anniversary of the company, Bragg talked about his commitment to Oxford and Nova Scotia and the success of his business in a rural community.
"We've built this business, with good steady jobs and we're selling our product around the world," Bragg said. "It's a first-class business and we've played a role in the development of some great people. They're as sophisticated as others around the world when it comes to technology. We have tremendous employees from the factory floor to the top. They are dedicated and committed to making the business work. Every single job here is important."
There are more than 500 people working for the Bragg Group of Companies.
Oxford Mayor Trish Stewart said the expansion is great news for her town.
“This is amazing news for Oxford,” she said. “This will ensure the security of our town, not just now but well into the future. John Bragg has continually put his faith behind rural Nova Scotia and its people. The financial impacts of this will be felt for years to come.” It’s a wonderful gift.”
Oxford Frozen Foods has existed in the wild blueberry capital of North America since 1968 when Bragg decided to take a leap into the blueberry processing business – incidentally the same year the blueberry crop collapsed in Nova Scotia.
He took the risk and persevered and with the support of government, the community and his workers, the company grew to become one of the largest employers in northern Nova Scotia. It has grown to become the largest supplier of frozen wild blueberries in the world and Canada’s premiere processor of frozen carrot products. It has also diversified into frozen rutabaga, onion rings, cheese sticks and battered vegetables.