Cleveland cheers M&M Mars expansion

Cleveland cheers M&M Mars expansion

August 21st, 2012 by Paul Leach in Business Around the Region

Bradley County Commissioner Mark Hall

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- A $67 million expansion plan for the M&M Mars facility in Cleveland is moving forward.

On Monday, Bradley County commissioners approved property tax breaks to induce the candy company to add another 38 jobs to its 493-employee plant. The jobs will add $2.5 million to the company's local payroll.

M&M has delivered more than it promised in the proposed agreement, said Doug Berry, vice president of economic development at the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.

"The existing 493 jobs [listed in the agreement] is now over 550 existing jobs at the plant," said Berry. "So they have already exceeded what they have committed to in writing."

In return under the payment-in-lieu-of-tax agreement approved by the county Monday, M&M Mars will make an annual payment of 50 percent of the property taxes due until Dec. 31, 2018.

During the same seven-year period, the company will make an annual payment of $652,588 to Bradley County and $542,755 to Cleveland.

Commissioner Bill Winters praised the company's decision to make another investment in the Cleveland plant and expressed gratitude for local management's involvement with the community at large.

The expansion work will include retrofitting operations for air conditioning, roofing and other hardware, Berry said. The $67 million is in addition to a $23 million investment "already in the ground," which the company made in 2010.

The economic impact of the extra jobs goes well beyond the gates of M&M Mars facility, Berry said. The expansion is estimated to indirectly create another 142 jobs for service providers that support the facility's functions. Those supporting jobs will equate with another $4.7 million in local payrolls.

Conservative estimates indicate the M&M Mars expansion will generate retail and home purchases that will result in $220,000 more in sales tax money and another $72,000 in property taxes, Berry said.

In other business, commissioners also approved an updated memorandum of understanding between Bradley County, Cleveland and the state regarding a proposed veterans home.

No major changes have been made to the agreement to fund the planned 108-bed living facility, said officials. However, they said an updated agreement has been requested by the state.

The agreement calls for the city of Cleveland to contribute $2 million and for Bradley County to contribute $5 million. An anonymous donor has agreed to pay $3 million of the county's portion.

"We just have to show that we intend to fund our portion and we are ready to do it," said Bradley County Commission Vice-Chairman Mark Hall, who chairs the veterans home committee.

The project, which has waited for more than three years to receive funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs, received a recent bump in the agency's priority list after a few higher-ranking projects were withdrawn by their applicants.

The new rankings are expected to come out in October, said Hall.

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