Lindsay Whitehurst, Herald Bulletin

How sweet it is!

After months of denial, Anderson leaders made it official Monday: Nestle Corp. will build a nearly 900,000-square-foot factory and distribution center.

When finished in spring 2008, it will create about 300 jobs at $20 an hour, plus a 30 percent benefit package. The company will begin taking applications in 2007; to apply go to www.nestlejobs.com.

“I think people will feel great about the city again,” Mayor Kevin Smith said. “It will improve the mood and sense of well-being for all Andersonians.”

It will be located on the city’s south side, near Interstate 69 Exit 22 and the Flagship Enterprise Center and make Nesquik Ready-To-Drink flavored milk and Coffee-Mate creamer.

Anderson started out in a field of hundreds of potential locations, eventually beating out five key competing towns to win the biggest Nestle plant in the country.

Luring the company to Anderson took a team of officials from the city, the state and the Corporation for Economic Development big enough to fill a classroom — not to mention about $26 million in economic sweeteners. They prepared exhaustive research, secured funding, endured abrupt changes of plan and, when it looked like things were settled, handled a major media leak.

“What I believe really helped us was Anderson’s can-do attitude,” Corporation for Economic Development Executive Director Mary Starkey said. “When we said ‘We need help, but we need to keep this secret,’ no one said no.”

It all started in July 2005, when a site selection firm came to the Anderson Corporation for Economic Development. They represented an unnamed company looking for a place to build a factory.

“The products are very heavy, and we needed to be centrally located,” Steve Presley, vice president and general manager for Nestle USA, said. “We started with a range of hundreds of potential locations.”

They told Starkey the company needed about 100 acres of land near a railroad and an interstate, but, as is typical when companies shop for a new site, not much else — not even the name of the company.

“We weren’t sure who the company might be,” Starkey said. “We did some guessing, but we didn’t know.”

Nevertheless, they got to work, more than once providing 20 pages of research to answer the firm’s detailed questions about everything from soil quality to local taxes.

Officials made three visits to the site, once staying for three days and talking with people at local businesses from Red Gold to Anderson Tool.

About halfway through the process, the company decided to double the size of the facility.

“When it was clear our site wouldn’t work,” Starkey said, they switched locations, moving from a site centrally located at The Flagship business park to one further west, near Carter Logistics.

Besides information, the company also needed infrastructure. Electricity, water, sewer, drainage, roads all had to be considered.

“They had a very compressed time frame, and I think our community’s ability to turn dirt quickly was a factor,” Board of Public Works Chairman Rob Sparks said.

To prepare the ground, the city will:

  • Spend about $4 million in tax increment financing funds to improve the roads. Over the next three years, 73rd Street will be widened and thickened to prepare it for industrial traffic, then lengthened on both ends to connect with Martin Luther King Boulevard and Layton Road. Work will also be done on 67th Street, including widening to three lanes and lengthening out to Layton Road. A connector road will also go in between 73rd and 67th streets.

  • Another $4.8 million will go to build a new electrical substation. That money will come from the city utility budget over the next three years.

  • Other amenities, with estimated prices, include: a railroad spur for $700,000, a drainage ditch for $650,000 and new sewer lines and lift for $650,000. The city will also get a $550,000 grant from the state to help pay for infrastructure.

    “Although this is necessary to serve Nestle, it also will serve everyone in the park and allow additional land to the west to be developed,” Anderson Deputy Economic Development Director Linda Dawson said.

    The city will also fund an $8 million bond issue for construction, which will be guaranteed by the company at no cost to taxpayers, waive $1 million in fees and permit costs and provide a 10-year tax abatement.

    “The incentive package, the willingness of the community to embrace the business, the availability of land on the size of acreage that we needed, the aggressive work of the local economic development team, all went along in terms of helping us decide,” Presley said.

    In addition to those sweeteners, the state is contributing about $250,000 in job training funds and tax credits up to $7 million.

    “We’re happy any time there’s a major jobs announcement, but I’m especially happy (this time), because Anderson has taken a lot of hits,” Gov. Mitch Daniels said. “There are some good people working hard there to get on the comeback trail.”

    Nestle is the world’s largest food company, reported $73 billion in sales internationally and $8 million in the U.S. in 2005. They make everything from Purina dog food to Powerbar nutrition bars.

    Smith said the announcement Monday is just the beginning for Anderson.

    “What this means in Anderson is it cements some pride in Anderson, that Anderson is truly a good place to do business,” Smith said. “Anderson can be an aggressive economic development location.”

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