Mars Chocolate North America will make $11.7 million in capital improvements to its Waco candymaking plant, including the purchase of a $4 million enrobing machine it reportedly will use to coat food items with chocolate, the city of Waco confirmed.

Waco City Council this week approved a business grant that will give the confectionary giant tax breaks on its investment in the plant at 1001 Texas Central Parkway. The upgrades reportedly will allow Mars to retain 456 full-time jobs, with benefits, at its Waco facility.

Production workers in Waco make 85 percent of the popular Snickers candy bars produced in North America.

“The only Snickers not made locally are the snack-size variety,” said Kris Collins, senior vice president for economic development at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce. She occasionally visits the Mars facility as a member of the chamber’s business retention team.

“They are continuing to invest in their plant,” Collins said of Mars’ decision to spend nearly $12 million to upgrade the complex.

Assistant City Manager George Johnson Jr. said Mars mentioned improvements to its parking lot and wastewater system in its application for city tax breaks. He said the company plans $5.6 million in real property improvements and $6.1 million in personal property improvements, including the new enrobing machine.

Mars spokesperson Leslie Veneziano released a statement, saying, “Yes, our facility in Waco did receive an industrial grant, which provides for a refund for the next few years so we may continue to invest in capital at this site and to maintain our level of employment of associates.”

The statement added: “Waco is an important site to Mars Chocolate, and we remain grateful for the support of the Waco Chamber and the community.”

Mars declined to get specific about how it will invest the money, calling that proprietary information.

City documents show Mars will receive tax breaks totaling $187,500 during the next five years on the increased value of the plant and its contents. The city, meanwhile, will receive about $220,000 in additional tax revenues during that period because of the improvements.

If Mars fails to retain the 456 full-time jobs, “it may be obligated to repay all or a portion of the incentive funds per the agreement,” the documents said.

Collins said Mars employment levels occasionally increase with the addition of contract and seasonal staffers.

Mars enjoyed about $30 billion in revenues in 2012, and Forbes magazine has determined it is the third-largest privately held company in the United States.

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