The Coca-Cola Co. and Fairlife, a company partnering with the soft-drink giant, will invest $25 million in Coke’s juice plant on Imperial Drive in a move that has attracted hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax breaks from Waco and McLennan County.
The Waco City Council and McLennan County Commissioners Court approved an Industrial Business Grant this week for Coca-Cola and Fairlife, which will start producing milk products at the plant most known for making Minute Maid and other juices, city and county officials confirmed.
The grant will come in the form of reductions in city and county taxes on the increased taxable value of the facility that will come with installation of new equipment. The tax breaks will span five years and range from 60 percent to 15 percent.
Fairlife, founded in 2014 as a producer of “ultra filtered” milk sold as reduced fat, chocolate, fat free and whole, is poised to spend $15 million installing “a filling line for dairy beverages” in the plant at Imperial and Hewitt drives frequently described as Waco’s Minute Maid plant.
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola said it would spend $10.5 million on improvements to accommodate its own new line by the end of 2019. Securing the tax breaks will allow Coca-Cola to retain 331 employees and hire 10 more staffers, according to information provided the city and county.
City officials estimate Coca-Cola and Fairlife will receive tax breaks on personal property valued at more than $300,000 during the five-year life of the contract with the city, said Melett Harrison, director of Waco’s housing and economic development office.
The companies will pay almost $450,000 in city taxes during the same period, Harrison said.
McLennan County Auditor Stan Chambers said he has not yet calculated the county tax burden Coca-Cola and Fairlife will avoid.
The companies did not make tax breaks a condition of expanding operations in Waco, said Kris Collins, senior vice president for economic development at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.
Collins said Waco beat out an East Coast community in winning a commitment from Fairlife.
She proposed the incentives to city and county leaders.
Coca-Cola has been operating in the 660,000-square-foot facility since 1994, when it bought the former Levi Strauss plant for $8.8 million and spent $20 million reconfiguring the interior and installing equipment.
It has remodeled and installed several new product lines in the facility over the years, spending an estimated $29 million on upgrades in 2008. It produces Minute Maid and Powerade products, among others, and is among the three largest production facilities in the Coca-Cola system, according to information provided by the beverage giant.