Nestlé, Millard Plants in Jonesboro to Equal $200 Million Investment

Nestlé's $165 million investment to build a frozen foods manufacturing plant at Jonesboro is probably the largest single start-up by a company in state history, the governor's office said Friday.

At a news conference at the state Capitol on Friday, Gov. Mike Huckabee said the 325,000-SF plant in the Craighead County Technology Park in Jonesboro would initially employ 1,000. But the plant, which will produce the company's line of Stouffer's and Lean Cuisine brand frozen meals, could ultimately employ 3,000, he said.

The Jonesboro plant will be the frozen food division's fourth plant in the United States. The other three are in Ohio, Utah and South Carolina.

Jonesboro leaders and state officials also said that Millard Refrigerated Services, an independent distribution contractor of Omaha, Neb., will build a 200,000-SF warehouse adjacent to the Nestlé plant for Nestlé's ingredients and finished products. The warehouse will employ 65.

Huckabee said Millard's investment brings the total price tag of the project to more than $200 million. The project will take up about 100 acres in the technology park. The Stellar Group, a construction management firm of Jacksonville, Fla., will head construction.

Henry Jones III, president and CEO of the Greater Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce, said the city's water, power and light company will also build a $5 million water pretreatment plant specifically to serve the Nestlé and Millard projects.

Huckabee said jobs at the plant will pay between $25,000-$28,000 per year. Initial annual payroll will be about $27 million.

Though Craighead County's unemployment rate is relatively low at 3.6 percent, Huckabee said he expects workers from neighboring counties to commute to work. Nearby counties such as Jackson and Mississippi have unemployment rates of 6.9 and 12.6 percent, respectively.

Jones said he expects the plant will draw workers from a 12-county area, including some from the state of Mississippi. Huckabee said people in Arkansas would commute 75 miles to work for good wages.

Switzerland-based Nestlé is the world's largest food processing company, with more than $47 billion in worldwide sales last year, including the prepared foods division's annual sales of $1.6 billion. Nestlé had total U.S. sales of $8.1 billion last year.

Nestlé has a total work force of about 225,000 people in 479 factories worldwide.

Huckabee said Nestlé was eager to begin construction on the project and said production in Jonesboro is scheduled to begin during the first half of 2003.

Jones said Jonesboro made a decision about a year ago to recruit food manufacturers. The city already had a base, with Riceland Foods and Frito-Lay operating plants there.

But it was the city's cooperation among state, county, city and business leaders, as well as its infrastructure, that helped seal the deal, he said. Jonesboro, county and state officials have been eying the Nestlé plant since last summer, Jones said.

Jones said state work force training will help train the plant's employees from its office at Arkansas State University's Technical Services site in the park.

A Host of Products

On Friday, Huckabee equated Nestlé's announcement with "one big chocolate rush," but the company makes more than its famous candy bars. Listed below are products produced by the company, according to its Web site:

• Soluble coffee: Nescafé, Taster's Choice, Ricoré, Ricoffy

• Roast & ground coffee: Nespresso, Bonka, Zoégas, Loumidis

• Water: Nestlé Pure Life, Nestlé Aquarel, Perrier, Vittel, Contrex, S. Pellegrino, Valvert, Panna, Levissima, Vera, F?rst Bismarck, Viladrau, Arrowhead, Poland Spring, Zephyrhills, Santa Maria, La Vie

• Other beverages: Nestea, Nesquik, Nescau, Milo, Carnation, Libby's, Caro

• Dairy products (shelf stable): Nestlé, Nido, Nespray, Ninho, Carnation, Milkmaid, La Lechera, Mo?a, Klim, Gloria, Svelty, Molico, Nestlé Omega Plus, Bear Band, Cofee-mate / (chilled): Nestlé, LC1, Chamyto, La Laitière, Sveltesse, Yoco, Svelty, Molico

• Breakfast cereals: Nestlé

• Infant foods: Nestlé, Nan, Lactogen, Beba, Nestogen, Cérélac, Neslac, Nestum, Guigoz

• Performance nutrition: PowerBar

• Clinical nutrition: Nutren, Peptamen, Modulen, Build-up, Nesvita

• Culinary products (bouillons, soups, seasonings, prepared dishes, canned food, pasta, sauces): Maggi, Buitoni, Crosse & Blackwell, Libby's, Thomy, Winiary

• Frozen foods: Magi, Buitoni, Stouffer's

• Ice cream: Nestlé, Frisco, Motta, Camy, Savory, Peters

• Refrigerated products (yogurts, desserts, pasta, sauces): Nestlé, Buitoni, Herta

• Chocolate and confectionery: Nestlé, Crunch, Cailler, Galak/Milkybar, KitKat, Quality Street, Smarties, Baci, After Eight, Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, Lion, Aero, Polo, Frutips, etc.

• Food services and professional products: Chef, Davigel, Minor's, Santa Rica

• Pet care: Friskies, Fancy Feast, Alpo, Mighty Dog, Gourmet, Mon Petit, Felix

• Flavours for the food industry: Food Ingredients Specialities (FIS)

• Pharmaceutical products: Alcon, Galderma

• Cosmetics: L'Oréal