Candy maker Ferrero plans another, bigger expansion at its Bloomington plant
Less than a year after candy maker Ferrero announced a $75 million expansion to its plant in Bloomington, the company plans to grow even further thanks to a deal that economic developers say is pretty sweet.
With the shell of Ferrero's new chocolate-making factory in the background, officials from the Italy-based company announced on Monday that the building that's under construction will be much bigger than first planned.
President of Ferrero North America Todd Siwak said the company will add close to 169,000 additional square feet as part of a planned $214 million expansion so it can make Kinder Bueno bars in the U.S. The premium chocolate bar debuted in 2019, and Siwak said its sales jumped 51% in North America last year, so the company wants to make them here.
“The ability to make Kinder Bueno right here in the heart of North America's food and confection industry ensures we are able to build on this tremendous momentum and meet growing demand,” Siwak said at a news conference.
Siwak said the expansion will add 200 jobs over the next four years. Ferrero has about 350 workers at its existing Bloomington plant.
Gov. JB Pritzker said Ferrero will be able to use a state tax credit for apprenticeship training to build its workforce. Heartland Community College started an apprenticeship program for Ferrero workers last year.
“Central Illinois is the heart of our nation with some of the hardest working people in America. Jobs and economic opportunity for Bloomington and the entire region remain among my highest priorities,” Pritzker said.
Ferrero has eight North American offices and 10 plants and warehouses, including a plant in the Chicago suburb of Franklin Park.
Siwak said Bloomington was the logical place to expand. “This really is the heartland logistically and by that we mean from a supply chain perspective, ingress, egress, highways, thoroughfares, access to a well trained, thoughtful workforce (and) access to the commodities that we use,” Siwak said. “It’s very intuitive.”
Financial incentives also helped. Patrick Hoban, CEO of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council, helped to create a package of standardized incentives. That includes property tax breaks on a sliding scale over five years for businesses that are in the county's enterprise zone.
“Including them in the zone originally whenever we amended the zone (last year) is how we got this away from Canada and Mexico. This was a big competition for us to get the chocolate factory (number) one, but to continue to work with them and continue to standardize our incentives is how we landed this major expansion,” Hoban said.
The last taxing body to sign off on the deal for Ferrero came last week. The school board of Normal-based Unit 5, which is not included in this deal, is scheduled to vote on the standardized incentives on Wednesday.
The package also includes incentives for hiring women and minorities. The enterprise zone offers several tax incentives including a sales tax break on building materials. The zone includes parts of Bloomington, Normal and Ford County. It is administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Bloomington Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe said Ferrero's expansion is a sign of a business-friendly community and the Ferrero name will bring more notoriety and perhaps more business for the city.
“Chocolate is relatively inexpensive compared to other products, and I think it’s going to be great for people all across North America to know that chocolate is made here in Bloomington,” Mwilambwe said.
Construction is expected to begin this fall. The chocolate processing plant that's already under construction is expected to be in operation next year.
Ferrero makes Crunch, Nutella, Raisinets, Tic Tacs and other candies.