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Sifto salt plant at Unity celebrates 75th anniversary

Compass Minerals held an open house to celebrate 75th anniversary.

UNITY — The Unity plant producing Sifto salt has been in operation for 75 years. Compass Minerals celebrated that milestone anniversary the last week of May with two festive events.

An open house was held May 28. Management and office staff welcomed interested members of the public to tour the plant. Tours were preceded by a slideshow detailing the plant’s history, and followed by refreshments on the front lawn. Visitors also got to take home gift bags containing a box of table salt.

Plant employees and former employees had their own celebration two days later. Approximately 200 people came out May 30 for tours, supper, visiting and special children’s activities.

Even Brandon Risner, vice-president of manufacturing, and Allen Dupree, senior vice-president of environment, health safety and sustainability, from the Compass Minerals head office in Overland Park, Kansas attended to help hand out the required personal protective equipment for those touring the plant.

Each employee was able to take their own family on a tour, showing them where they worked and explaining their specific contribution to the production of salt and the running of the plant.

The assembly line where table salt is packaged into cartons was a highlight for many, especially the kids on the tours. Another highlight was the automated packaging of water softener salt and the automatic palletizer. Former employees remembered when loading the heavy bags of salt onto the pallets was done by manual labour.

Employee family members touring the plant included not only spouses and children, but also parents. One mother said she was most surprised by “how big” many of the pieces were.

She also commented on the age of some of the equipment, but then remembered the plant has been in continuous operation for 75 years old. While all the equipment and machinery has been updated and replaced at one time or another, the original structure still houses the heart of the salt plant.

A new building, normally an indoor tarping station for truckers, served as the headquarters for the celebration. There was a constant hum of excitement in the room whether family members were suiting up in PPE before visiting the plant itself or sharing their experiences after returning from the tour.

There was a running slideshow of photos of the plant and its employees, starting with the building of the plant all the way up to the present day.

One popular display was a banner displaying names of the many people who have worked at the salt plant at one time or another. The list of employees was sorted by the decades the individuals were hired.

Current and retired employees along with family members checked for their names on the banner. One new employee was even observed taking a photo of his name on the 2020s list.

Seeing the names of former co-workers brought back many memories, and some names – today known in the community for other accomplishments – were a surprise. “Oh, I didn’t know … worked here,” was a comment overheard more than once.

There was no time to be bored. The adults enjoyed checking out the slide show and employee lists and visiting with friends, co-workers and former co-workers, while the children played on a bouncy castle, had their faces painted by Keziah Dugas or made special requests of Larry Goodall of Wilkie who was kept busy creating balloon creatures.

The salt plant in Unity has been an integral part of the community for 75 years. Hundreds of residents have worked there at one time or another.

Dominion Tar and Chemical Company chose the Unity location and started construction of the salt plant in August, 1947. Production of salt began in April, 1959 under the name of Prairie Salt Company, a subsidiary of Dominion Tar and Chemical Company. Although there have been various parent companies of different names over the years – with Compass Minerals being formed in 2005 – the familiar Sifto brand has been consistent throughout.

Not only does Compass Minerals support local organizations with donations and volunteers and many local businesses, particularly contractors, with their purchases, much of the payroll of the current 52 employees stays in Unity and area through all the monetary expenditures every family makes – whether it is fueling up the family vehicle at a local gas station, going out for supper at a local restaurant, picking up groceries at one of the grocery stores, purchasing a burger at one or more of any number of barbecue fundraisers, paying the kids’ registration fees for sports activities, taking a fitness class, getting a massage, and, and, and.

Congratulations to Sifto and Compass Minerals on 75 years of salt production and contributions to the Unity community and economy.

Did you know?

One kilogram-cartons of table salt are produced in Unity for all of Western Canada; the plant at Goderich, Ont., produces table salt for Eastern Canada. But the Compass Minerals Unity plant produces all the Sifto brand kosher and pickling salt sold in the entire Canadian market.

Almost 40 per cent of Unity’s salt sales are bulk salt shipments. Trucks haul salt to water treatment plants, industrial food processors, feed mills and to SAGD oilfield operations.

The Unity plant location was chosen by Dominion Tar and Chemical Company because there was a good salt bed, a water supply, natural gas nearby and rail facilities.

Although reference is made to the mining of salt, no one goes underground. Instead water is pumped down over a kilometre deep into the earth to dissolve the salt and then the concentrated salt brine is returned to the surface for processing.