By Christmas, the old Campbell Soup plant in Listowel that closed last spring will be making chicken wieners under new owners and creating 500 jobs within four years.

Erie Meat Products Ltd. of Mississauga credited a $3-million grant announced by Premier Dalton McGuinty with helping move the $40-million project forward.

“This is a community that needed something big,” said George Tiesma, director of business and development for Erie Meats. “We’re excited for this town.”

McGuinty described the new plant as a “big fish” in this farming centre north of Kitchener-Waterloo. But, on the same day the Royal Bank predicted Ontario’s economic growth is accelerating to 3.3 per cent this year, the premier warned the government will turn down the tap on spending after 2010.

“Next year, the baton’s over to you guys,” McGuinty said in a nod to the business community. “We’re going to pull out when it comes to priming the economy.”

The money for Erie Meats, which supplies Costco with its Harvest Creek brand and Wal-Mart with Golden Maple deli meats, comes from the government’s rural economic development fund under the “Open Ontario” initiative.

Political connections did not hurt Listowel in landing the new company: The town is in the Perth-Wellington riding of Revenue Minister John Wilkinson and next door to Agriculture Minister Carol Mitchell’s riding of Huron Bruce.

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