TOPEKA — Mars Chocolate North America formally broke ground Tuesday on a new candy factory south of Topeka, the first phase of a $250 million project expected to create about 200 full-time jobs.
The plant, which will produce M&Ms and Snickers candies, is the first new chocolate factory Mars has built in 35 years.
Todd Lachman, president of Mars Chocolate Latin America and North America, said the project represented "Mars' commitment to manufacturing in the United States for the U.S. market."
Kansas and local officials pledged incentives to help land the Mars project. The 350,000-square-foot building will be constructed in the Kanza Fire Commerce Park near Topeka's Heartland Park motorsports facility and Forbes Field, a former Air Force base.
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Mars officials say candy production should begin in 2013 and that the project had the potential to create nearly 1,000 direct and indirect jobs in Kansas, including the full-time positions and other temporary jobs related to the factory construction and related suppliers.
The incentive package included land for the plant, wind energy production and a new railroad spur. The company also is expected to be eligible to use new Kansas economic development programs related to capital investment that allow firms to expense new equipment purchases.
"The opportunities afforded through this state-of-the-art facility means new jobs and ongoing economic growth," Gov. Sam Brownback said. "This is a boon for Topeka and the state of Kansas."
Kansas has had a series of good economic reports in recent months, including four consecutive months of increasing state revenue. However, the latest unemployment rate indicated new job creation, a goal of the Republican Brownback's administration, was struggling like other parts of the United States.
The state Department of Labor said the jobless rate was 6.5 percent in July, down from 6.6 percent in June and 7 percent in July 2010. The figures were adjusted to factor out normal seasonal trends, such as students entering and leaving the job market during the summer.