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Cando pasta plant to restart next week

GRAND FORKS -- The former Noodles by Leonardo pasta plant in Cando will begin producing pasta next week, about six months after it closed its doors.

Now owned by Cando Pasta LLC, a partnership with local businessmen Jim and Bruce Gibbens and two other investors, the plant should have 15 to 20 employees later this month and perhaps 30 to 40 by next year.

"That's a big deal in Cando," said Jim Gibbens, who also serves as president of the Towner County Economic Development Commission and is a former mayor of Cando, a town of about 1,100.

Cando Pasta has been hiring people and testing equipment since officially taking over the operation April 29, he said. The plant will likely begin operation next week, he said, producing elbow macaroni or pasta shells and packaging them for other brands.

Noodles by Leonardo, which had about 225 employees in 1989, employed about 30 when it closed in October. Most of the recent hires are former employees.

Cando, the Towner County seat, is about 120 miles by road northwest of Grand Forks.

The partners involved in Cando Pasta all have their hands in other agribusinesses in the region.

Cousins Jim and Bruce Gibbens, a Cando attorney, are partners in a 12,000-acre grain farm and a hog operation near Cando.

The other partners, Bruce Satrom of Colgate and Steve Johnson of Page, are also partners in Abbiamo Pasta Co., which is building a pasta plant in Casselton. Abbiamo is Italian for "We Have Pasta."

Satrom is affiliated with Bektrom Foods, a Michigan, N.D.-based food manufacturer with a plant in Fargo. He came close to buying the Cando plant late last year.

The Noodles by Leonardo plant, which opened in 1980, was founded by Twin Cities businessman Leonard Gasparre. At the time, it was touted as the nation's first integrated durum mill and pasta plant.

At the time, an estimated 80 percent of the nation's durum was grown within a 90-mile radius of Cando. Until the plant opened, durum had been shipped to mills hundreds and even thousands of miles away.

In 1991, Gasparre opened another plant 35 miles by road to the southwest in Devils Lake, employing about 100.

Gasparre died in 2011.

In spring 2012, his family consolidated pasta operations in Cando and sold the Devils Lake plant to Ultra Green Packaging, a Twin Cities-based company that makes biodegradable plates and other food service products.

Ultra Green is gearing up to start production this summer in Devils Lake.