Gerber plans 75 million investment

December 17, 2008
| By Pete Daly |
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FREMONT — Worldwide food giant Nestle sent key executives to Gerber Products –Nestle Nutrition today to announce a $75 million investment that will create more than 200 new jobs over the next 10 years, as well as retain 1,100 existing jobs.

On Tuesday, the state of Michigan granted Nestle an Agricultural Processing Renaissance Zone status at the Gerber plant that is home to all of Nestle Nutrition’s R&D infant and toddler food products worldwide.

Officials indicated at a news conference the benefit of the Agricultural Processing Zone will be worth an estimated $43 million. Companies that commit to certain employment and investment benchmarks in the zones are eligible for the major tax breaks.

The investment will be used for infrastructure upgrades, process improvements and expansion of operations, according to Kurt Schmidt, CEO of Nestle Nutrition North America.

“Newaygo County will be a destination for attracting top professionals from around the world in food science,” Schmidt said.

Jeff G. Kinzbach, senior vice president of Nestle Nutrition Research & Development, said close to 100 professionals now work in the Gerber plant R&D center, focusing on new products and packaging for its infant and toddler foods.

Kinzback said the expansion will include the hiring of more professionals. He noted the application for the Agricultural Processing Renaissance Zone was made by Newaygo County Economic Development Director Andy Lofgren. The application had been in the works for two years.

Gerber has 190 different food products labled in 16 different languages. Nestle worldwide has 23 R&D centers, including the Fremont technology devleopment center.

Gerber has been part of the Nestle Nutrition Division since September 2007.

Company officials also indicated Gerber plans to open an $8 million call center in Fremont to market the company’s infant and juvenile life insurance products. No indication was given regarding the number of jobs that might be added to the existing call center staff located in Fremont.

In a videotaped message, Gov. Jennifer Granholm praised Gerber's decision.

Don Kovisto, director of the Michgian Department of Agriculture, said agriculture has a $63 a year impact on the Michigan, supplying one million jobs.

Gerber officials said the company works with more than 200 Michigan growers and purchases more than 61,000 tons of produce valued at approximately $12 million. Also, the company purchases $36 million in packing and raw materials from 11 key Michigan-based suppliers..

“We are excited by this great example of private-public partnership. This announcement reflects our commitment to Gerber’s historical birthplace: Fremont, Michigan," said Schmidt. "Our goal is always bigger and better."

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