Mars expands: Candymaker marks $67 million growth project

Mars expands: Candymaker marks $67 million growth project

April 5th, 2013 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam watches as a conveyor belt carries finished M&Ms during a tour Thursday of the Mars chocolate factory in Cleveland, Tenn. Haslam, a self-described M&M afficianado, praised the Mars company's commitment to the Tennessee factory in a news conference after the tour.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

Mars in Cleveland

Opened: 1977

Location: 3500 Peerless Road, Cleveland, Tenn.

Products: M&Ms, Twix candies

Size: 650,000 square feet

Staff: 550 employees

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - 330 million a day.

That's how many M&Ms that Mars Inc.'s plant here makes daily in the wake of the completion of its $67 million expansion.

The number is in addition to the 72 tons of Twix the factory can produce in just one 12-hour shift.

"I'm doing my fair share," joked Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam about eating the Volunteer State-made M&Ms.

Haslam, who toured the 650,000-square-foot plant along with more than a dozen other public officials, said the investment by New Jersey-based Mars is an example of what Tennessee is trying to accomplish by helping existing businesses to grow.

"Most new jobs are created by existing business," he said. "This is a perfect example of it."

He added that the state didn't provide any incentives for the Cleveland project, although some local property tax breaks were granted on the new investment. The state has offered some incentives for a separate, $87 million regional innovation center Mars is undertaking outside Nashville for its pet care business.

Joe Burton, site director for the Cleveland plant, said 50 more workers were hired due to expansion, bringing the staff at the 35-year-old plant to about 550 workers.

He said the new equipment permitted the company to make pretzel and flavored M&Ms in addition to its traditional fare. The expansion also enabled the company to bulk up its Twix production.

Now, Burton said, about two-thirds of the plant's output is M&Ms and the remainder is Twix.

Doug Berry, the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce's vice president for economic development, said he is encouraged to see a longtime business continue to grow.

"Hopefully, they'll be here for another 50 years," he said.

The Cleveland plant is the company's biggest maker of M&Ms, producing about 51 percent of the candy. A New Jersey factory also produces M&Ms, and a Kansas factory that's under construction also will make them, according to the company.

All of the company's Twix production is now in Cleveland, an official said.

The Cleveland facility is one of nine chocolate production plants operated by Mars in the United States.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.