published Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Bradley County, Cleveland OK tax incentives for Mars plant upgrades

Dustin Cain checks M&M's at the Mars Inc. plant in Cleveland, Tenn.
Dustin Cain checks M&M's at the Mars Inc. plant in Cleveland, Tenn.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Bradley County Commission and the Cleveland City Council have agreed to provide tax abatements linked to $10 million in improvements to the 35-year-old Mars Chocolate facility.

Both governing bodies recently voted to approve an amendment to a 2012 payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement associated with a $67 million expansion of the Mars Chocolate production site on Peerless Road. The original agreement helped to offset property taxes linked to the creation of the pretzel M&M line at the facility.

“We’re grateful for the opportunity to grow in Cleveland,” said Joseph Burton, site director for the Mars Chocolate facility, during a recent meeting with the Bradley County Commission.

The $10 million investment primarily involves the facility’s current expansion of its Twix production lines, which is scheduled to be completed by December 2014 and is expected to create four new part-time positions, according to a Mars Chocolate document.

The seven-year PILOT agreement, which terminates on Dec. 31, 2018, stipulates that Mars Chocolate pays 50 percent of the normal property taxes otherwise due on the capital investments covered in the agreement.

In return Mars Chocolate agreed to create an additional 38 positions as part of its $67 million expansion, said Doug Berry, vice president of economic development for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.

However, said Berry, the company has actually made $90 million in site investments and has added 82 new employees in recent years.

The Twix line expansion brings the total reinvestment to the facility to $100 million since 2010.

In a recent meeting with the Cleveland City Council, Berry expressed the need to remain competitive with other communities that host Mars facilities.

“We want to show [Mars Chocolate] we are as sharp as the rest,” said Berry in regards to incorporating the $10 million Twix line expansion in the PILOT agreement.

The facility produces over half of the company’s M&Ms and all of its Twix lines, said Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland.

As of Nov. 1, the Mars Chocolate site in Cleveland. employs 575 full-time associates and averages between 300 and 400 contract temporary workers, according to a letter provided by Anthony Johnson, associate relations manager at the facility.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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