Mars candy company's plans for Topeka plant will bring 200 jobs

TOPEKA — Chocolate maker Mars said Wednesday that it had chosen a site in Topeka for its newest manufacturing plant that will initially bring 200 jobs to northeast Kansas.

Officials with the company, city and state said the project is the largest single investment in the Topeka economy in the city's history. Mars plans to build a 350,000-square-foot plant at a cost of $250 million in its first phase.

The plant, which will be operated by Mars Chocolate North America, will be built on new industrial property south of Forbes Field and across from the Heartland Park race track.

Mars officials said the project eventually could create nearly 1,000 direct and indirect jobs in Topeka. Construction is expected to begin in August, with the plant beginning operations in late 2013 making M&M's and Snickers.

"The site will be a reflection of our commitment to manufacture our products in the markets where we sell them," said Mike Wittman, Mars Chocolate North America's vice president for supply.

Wittman said the plant will be the first new chocolate facility built by Mars in 35 years.

Incentives offered to lure the plant include a package from Topeka and Shawnee County governments worth more than $9 million, including free land for the factory and wind-energy generation.

The state of Kansas offered tax incentives and workforce training programs to Mars. Gov. Sam Brownback and Commerce Secretary Pat George said Mars would be able to take advantage of new incentives for capital investment that allow firms to expense the purchase of new equipment.

Brownback said he and others involved with the project visited with Mars officials on Tuesday at their New Jersey headquarters. Topeka was one of 89 locations in 13 states Mars was considering for the plant.

"The decision to build this new Mars facility in Topeka demonstrates that Kansas can compete and win in the global business world," Brownback said.

Mars officials declined to say what the wages would be at the plant or how quickly additional jobs would be created. Mars is a privately held company with more than 65,000 employees worldwide.