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Mikkel Pates, Forum Communications, Published July 12 2012

ND pasta maker Noodles by Leonardo closing

FARGO — Noodles by Leonardo’s durum mill and pasta plant in Cando, N.D., is shutting down for good, tentatively on Sept. 30.

Company officials notified the North Dakota Public Service Commission, which regulates grain elevators, that it had ceased buying and milling durum in October 2011. The plant had a rated capacity of 84,000 bushels of storage.

A person at the Cando plant referred questions to the company’s home office in Devils Lake, N.D., where a spokesman declined to answer questions.

In March 2012, Noodles by Leonardo announced it would consolidate operations into Cando, N.D., from Devils Lake, where it had expanded and moved its corporate headquarters in 1991. The Cando facility then had 33 employees and produced dry pasta and food service pasta, such as spaghetti noodles and macaroni products.

In May 2012, Ultra Green Packaging Inc., of Plymouth, Minn., announced it would open a wheat straw pulping and molding facility in the former Noodles by Leonardo plant in Devils Lake.

The Cando plant was part of the pasta industry that was started in North Dakota by Leonard Gasparre, who was its president until he died at age 83 in June 2011.

The Cando plant was the region’s first pasta plant built in the heart of what was once known as the Durum Triangle — an area roughly encompassing Towner, Ramsey and Cavalier counties. The fusarium head blight (scab) epidemic that started with wetter weather in 1993, has largely eliminated durum wheat in that corner of the state, and the center of production has shifted to west of Minot, N.D.

A long history

Eugene Nicholas, a Cando farmer, businessman and former legislator, recalls he started working with Gasparre in 1978 on the pasta project. During the 1979 legislative session, the Industrial Commission approved $5 million for an initial Bank of North Dakota loan.

“It was a good mill, a good facility,” Nicholas recalls. “It kind of stood the test of time — 32 years ago, it went into construction. It’s been a mainstay of our community for 30 years.”

Groundbreaking was in 1979 and the plant began operation in 1980.

The success of Gasparre’s pasta efforts was the impetus for the development of the Dakota Growers Pasta Co. plant at Carrington, N.D., which began operations as a farmer-owned cooperative in 1993. Nicholas served on the board for Dakota Growers until it was converted to a corporation and sold to a Canadian company.

Nicholas says he’d been aware that the Gasparre family had been interested in selling the Cando facility. He says the Cando and Devils Lake facilities together were at a capacity about a fourth the size of the Dakota Growers Pasta facility, which handled about 12 million bushels of durum a year at the point the company was sold.