Compass Minerals recognizes 70th anniversary in Unity

Formerly known as Sifto Canada, Sifto Salt or simply Sifto Salt Canada, Compass Minerals will celebrate another milestone anniversary in Unity. Primary products processed at this facility are table salt, fine evaporated salt, water conditioning salt, agricultural salt and highway de-icing salt.

Located in west central Saskatchewan, the Unity plant is one of the Compass Minerals’ four mechanical evaporation plants. During the 1940s, while oil exploration was underway, salt was discovered in the area. In 1947, the Unity plant began construction with production beginning in 1949. In 1990, the Unity plant would become part of the company eventually known as Compass Minerals.

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Located on Highway 14 east of Unity, this landmark has become a familiar sight. This company is one of the largest employers in Unity, now employing 60 people – the same number of employees that were part of the Compass Minerals Unity plant on the 150th anniversary of Canada and of Sifto Salt in Canada. A large part of the Press Herald’s Nov. 24, 2017’s issue was about Compass Minerals and Sifto history, as well as photos and congratulatory ads from fellow businesses.

At one time the plant employed 120 people but with the addition of automation, manual labor was not as productive or cost effective. Still, Compass Minerals remains one of Unity’s largest employers.

Compass Minerals prides itself on an ongoing good safety record.

Change has been part of the evolvement of 70 years in business. Not just in name, but:

• Conversion from manual jobs to automated systems that help run the plant;

• Tervita setting up business, buying the empty caverns and creating employment  repurposing the caverns for environmental storage of oil product. Unity Plant Manager, John Gottschalk, said, “This has been a good relationship;”

• Offering training and apprentice opportunities so local people can stay working local.

Some of the things that remain the same at Compass Minerals include, providing good paying jobs in the community, rare layoffs, consistent summer student opportunities as well as longevity of the plant because, as Gottschalk says, “Unless there is no demand, the plant will always be here as there is no end to salt.”

Compass Minerals, Unity location, is located on the largest salt deposit in North America.

It is the only Compass Minerals plant that generates electric power for plant use, generating two thirds of its own power. A little known fact is that Compass Minerals team partnered with firefighters, SaskPower and emergency measures on New Year’s Eve 1999, prepared to transfer power to the town if the Y2K bug came to be (luckily this did not happen).

In addition to the business side of things, Compass Minerals is committed to the community through a variety of donations, sponsorships and hands on volunteer efforts by their employee team. Each year, the business is on hand at the Delta Co-op Easter egg hunt, having donated, prepared and served hot dog lunch for participants. Compass Minerals sponsors a hole at the Unity golf course, as well as they are a big supporter of Unity minor ball. In addition they are donors and sponsors of the Unity Curling Club, the monthly community calendar in the paper, as well as having a commercial barbecue that can be lent as a donation for fundraising or organizations events, at times even providing the staff to man the grill.

A large replica of a Sifto salt box sits at the entrance of the Compass Minerals office building, created by former summer students and it has been used in several community parades.

Compass Minerals plant runs 24 days of the year, seven days of the week, 365 days of the year with the exception of plant maintenance shut down twice a year.

Gottschalk, says 70th anniversary celebrations will be reserved for the employees, recognizing that they are a large part of the business’s continued success.

Other interesting facts about the plant:

When production first began, employees could pay 10 cents to board a daily bus out to the plant;

Rates of pay in 1949 was $.80 per hour;

Workers were paid $1 an hour before Oct. 1, 1950 with a five cent increase received after that date;

Familiar names like Bob Burns, William Belcher, Anton Bosh were some of the employees that worked in construction of the plant before coming on board with Sifto;

Preceding John Gottschalk, who came on board in 1996 as plant manager, was Jack Trebish who served as plant manager from 1990-1996;

The last household bale of Sifto salt was made Sept 21, 1994, and included employees Daryl Mackie, Peter Keller, Dave Porsnuk and David Hirsekorn;

Compass Minerals, then known as Sifto, had a number of employees who retired with more than 30 years of service;

Ruby Howey helped pack nearly 43,000 tons of salt into round cans, 2 lb. slim packages and 1 kg boxes in all her years with the plant. If all these packages were laid end to end, they would span a distance of 5,000 miles;

Several employees over the years were second generation workers with parents or grandparents being part of the employee team at the plant;

Seventy years of history, upgrades, updates, evolvement, and employee changes are part of the story with the Compass Minerals plant in Unity. This milestone event is a reason for celebration in Unity as this plant has offered steady employment, while contributing to the local economy in a variety of ways.

Reprinted from the Unity-Wilkie Press-Herald

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