published Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Mars Chocolate in Cleveland receives tax incentives

M&M's spill onto a conveyor belt at the Mars Inc. plant in Cleveland, Tenn.
M&M's spill onto a conveyor belt at the Mars Inc. plant in Cleveland, Tenn.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The Cleveland City Council has agreed to amend a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement linked to a $90 million expansion of the city's Mars Chocolate facility.

On Monday, the City Council voted 7-0 to incorporate $10 million in capital improvements into a tax incentive agreement that originally called for the company to invest $67 million at the site, which has grown by $23 million.

The $10 million has been allocated to upgrades to the Twix production line, air conditioning systems and water supply lines taking place through December 2014, said Doug Berry, vice president of economic development for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.

The PILOT agreement requires Mars Chocolate to pay 50 percent of the normal property taxes otherwise due on the items included in the agreement, which lasts from Jan. 1, 2012, until Dec. 31, 2018.

In return, Mars Chocolate agreed to add 38 more jobs. However, the company has already doubled its commitment by adding 84 positions, Berry said.

"We want to show [Mars Chocolate] we are as sharp as the rest," Berry said about other communities that have competitive partnerships with the candy company's manufacturing facilities.

The Cleveland facility produces all of the company's Twix lines and 55 percent of its M&Ms, said Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland.

The Mars Chocolate PILOT amendment also will have to be approved by the Bradley County Commission before it goes into effect.

In other business, the Cleveland City Council balked at providing a letter of intent to possibly provide animal pickup services to The Ark of Cleveland, one of two animal rescue groups that have submitted proposals to provide animal shelter services for Bradley County.

Several members of the City Council voiced concerns that the letter was not very specific and included no cost estimates about what the city would charge The Ark for the service.

The requested letter is only intended to show Cleveland's willingness to work with The Ark on the matter, said City Manager Janice Casteel.

In the meantime, an ad hoc committee composed of members of the Cleveland City Council and the Bradley County Commission meets today to discuss long-term solutions to the county's animal control needs.

The ad hoc committee would provide a letter to The Ark about its recommendations to the Cleveland City Council and Bradley County Commission, said City Councilman Dale Hughes, chairman of the panel.

The Cleveland Animal Shelter is providing animal control services to county residents outside of city limits as part of a temporary agreement with the county that ends in March.

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

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