Lifesaver for freight-hungry trucking firms

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MONTREAL, Que. – There are bound to be some sweet loads heading in and out of Montreal as Kraft Foods reconfirmed its decision to relocate production of Life Savers candy from Holland, Mich. by 2003.

The news came despite an offer of millions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks to stay put. Like Michigan, the province of Quebec has offered the company incentives to add jobs to its local operations.

Quebec wouldn’t elaborate on the nature and cost of those incentives, saying negotiations are still in progress.

Their existence was revealed at a mid-afternoon press conference in early February, by Georges Bosse, member of the City of Montreal Executive Committee Responsible for Economic Development.

The firm employs 600 people and is the third-largest taxpayer in Holland, a city of 36,000 that has been rocked by the decision to relocate the operation to Montreal, starting this spring.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. offered Kraft a package of incentives valued at about $25.5 million U.S. to stay put, with millions more available if it expanded the plant and added an estimated 200 jobs.

“First, the Holland plant is significantly underutilized following the divestiture of breath mints and gum by Nabisco in 2000.

“Second, the (Town of) Mount Royal plant has the space to absorb Holland’s production. Third, production at Mount Royal will benefit from lower manufacturing costs. Together, these factors will enhance our efficiency and make the best possible use of our manufacturing assets,” says a spokesman for Kraft in justifying the move.

The good news was then duplicated just days later when food and agriculture giant Cargill Inc. said it will build a $45-million meat-processing plant near Montreal, creating 600 jobs.

Pauline Marois, Finance Minister and Deputy Premier says the Minneapolis-based company will get $3.9 million in equity investment and grants from the province to build the factory in Chambly, just east of Montreal.

The plant is expected to be up and running churning out beef and pork products within two years.

Privately owned Cargill markets, processes and distributes agricultural, food, financial and industrial products. It has 90,000 employees in 57 countries.

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