Business Guide CNYWinter.com

Wednesday December 10, 2003

Nestle and Sonoco Plants Expected to Resume Operation Under New Ownership

Gov. Pataki announces "Christmas present" of 630 jobs for Fulton.
By Chris Motola

Fulton may once again live up to its slogan, ? a city with a future.? New York State Gov. George Pataki arrived to unveil the good news at a press conference at the Fulton Municipal Building on Dec. 10 at 2PM.

The city of Fulton stands to recover the manufacturing jobs within the next three years lost by the closings of the Nestle plant and the forthcoming closing of Sonoco Flexible Packaging. Rising in their place will be the New York Chocolate and Confections Company which will occupy 250,000 square feet of the former Nestle plant; the Fulton Chocolate Company, which will occupy the remaining two buildings of the Nestle facility; and Spear USA, a packaging label manufacturer which will lease the Sonoco plant after it closes.

Along with an Oct. 8 announcement of 200 new jobs at the Fulton Chocolate Company, New York Chocolate and Spear are expected to create another 430 jobs.

?We?re not going to win all the battles,? said the governor, ?but we?re never going to stop fighting every single fight.?

?When we lost Sonoco and Nestle here in Fulton, we lost I think it?s 580 jobs, and we?re not going to rest until we bring back not just every one of those, but more,? he vowed.

The largest of the new companies will be the New York Chocolate and Confections which is expected to create 373 jobs within three years of opening its doors. The company will produce cocoa, cocoa butter, bulk and flake chocolate. The company is the result of a joint venture between New York City-based Lion Capital Management and cocoa producers from the Ivory Coast, who collectively own around 40 percent of the world?s cocoa production.

Dr. Ousmann-A Gbane, the head of the venture, was enthusiastic about the new company. ?This is the greatest day of my life, the reason being that it?s the first time in the history of manufacturing chocolate that producers are involved.?

Gbane said his company intends to produce chocolate in Fulton for at least as many years as Nestle did in its 102 years of Fulton operations. Gbane?s group expects to invest $40 million in the facility.

Also inheriting the Nestle plant will be the Fulton Chocolate Company, headed by Richard Duffy of Island Capital Ventures, who will be investing over $6 million. They are have projected creating 200 new jobs with three years. Fulton Chocolate will initially manufacture the Z-Carb, low carbohydrate chocolate bar and will purchase bulk chocolate from its neighbor, New York Chocolate and Confections.

?When we were up here back in October, it was an exciting day for Island Capital when we announced that the name of the company was going to be The Fulton Chocolate Company,? said Duffy. He noted that if it weren?t for the location and condition of the plant, with its available workforce of skilled chocolate manufacturers, his group ?probably would have not pursued it as vigorously.?

Both chocolate manufacturers are aiming to open their operations simultaneously by the summer of 2004 and will be reviewing resumes throughout the first quarter of the year.

Fulton?s Mayor Michael Stafford said the news captured the spirit of the holiday season. ?I think that, even though it?s not the 25th of December yet, this is a Christmas present for the City of Fulton.?

The governor closed the conference with on a light note, which drew a loud round of applause. ?I love chocolate, especially around Christmas time, but I?ll tell you, I?m done with Nestle?s bars. From now on I?m going to get a bar from the Fulton company, made with ingredients from New York Chocolate.?

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