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Gov. Bill Haslam, left, and his wife, Crissy, pose for photos with workers dressed as M&Ms, during a groundbreaking for the Mars Wrigley Confectionery Plant's expansion on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, in Cleveland, Tenn.

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Mars milestones

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Candy maker Mars marked two milestones on Tuesday at its M&M's production plant here — the start of a $142 million expansion and 40 years in Bradley County.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said that Mars, the fifth largest private company in America, could expand anywhere but continues to choose Cleveland.

"They keep making big capital investments," he said during the groundbreaking about the expansion that will permit the company to add Hazelnut Spread M&M's to its product lineup.

BY THE NUMBERS

$142 million - New investment in Mars’ Cleveland plant

300 million - M&M’s made daily at the factory

40 - Truckloads leaving daily with product from plant

Source: Mars Wrigley Confectionery U.S.

The expansion to its Peerless Road factory will add about 75 jobs to the more than 800 already at the plant that also makes Twix bars.

Mack Phillips, the plant's site director, said the new investment will lead the factory into the next 40 years.

"It allows us to grow, innovate and create new varieties," he said about the factory that makes more M&M's than anywhere in the world. Hazelnut Spread is slated to be launched in April 2019, Phillips said.

He said that 40 years in Cleveland is about family and community.

"Cleveland is an example of how Mars likes to do business," Phillips said

Bob Rolfe, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said the state and Mars is negotiating a $500,000 incentive package that's to include Fast Track economic development and training grants. He said the average wage of the jobs is $27 per hour.

The Cleveland plant is part of Mars Wrigley Confectionery U.S., a division of the global Mars business, which generates $33 billion a year in revenue. Rolfe said it's the company's workforce that enables it to succeed and he cited the Tennessee Promise scholarships as helping to bolster Mars' local manpower needs.

Doug Berry, the Cleveland-Bradley Chamber of Commerce's vice president of economic development, said Mars is an anchor employer for the region.

"It's an iconic brand," he said. "You can have a career here."

Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks said he likes to look on M&M's packages and locate the made-in-Cleveland mark.

"I'm proud to say these M&M's are made in the sweetest town in the sweetest state," he quipped.

Haslam, who took a 20-minute tour of the plant, said Mars has made about $400 million in investments in Tennessee throughout its various businesses since he has been governor.

He mentioned the state's workforce and educational opportunities provided by Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, a scholarship aimed at adult students.

"They can have the workforce they need going forward," Haslam said. "That's what businesses want to know today. Are we going to have the people we need."

Mars' Hazelnut Spread Chocolate Candies will feature a hazelnut spread center covered in milk chocolate, according to the company.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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