In Candy HQ Competition, New Jersey Offers a Sweet Tax Deal

by | November 16, 2017

By Greg Trotter

Chicago could land the new U.S. headquarters for Mars Wrigley Confectionery, but Newark, N.J. might have the sweeter offer after officials in that state approved more than $30 million in tax credits Tuesday.

The candy company, a unit of privately held Mars, is considering both Illinois and New Jersey for its U.S. headquarters.

Hundreds of jobs are at stake in the decision. If Mars Wrigley selects New Jersey, Chicago -- already home to the company's global headquarters and other operations -- could lose some 200 jobs that would be shifted to Newark and another site in New Jersey, according to a New Jersey Economic Development Authority board document summarizing the project.

If Mars Wrigley chooses Chicago instead, it would move some 370 jobs from New Jersey to a new 92,300-square-foot headquarters in Chicago, according to the document.

Chicago officials believe the city's still in the running.

"Mars is a major contributor to Chicago's thriving food industry ecosystem and we are working closely with the company, across its many business lines, to continue to increase its presence in Chicago," Grant Klinzman, spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office, said in an email.

Klinzman declined to provide any additional details, such as where the Chicago office would be located or how much the city offered in subsidies.

Jacquelyn Reineke, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which manages the Economic Development for a Growing Economy tax incentive program, said she couldn't comment on pending applications for EDGE incentives.

A Mars Wrigley spokeswoman declined to comment Wednesday.

In an email to the Tribune on Monday, spokeswoman Alicia Buksar wrote: "If the state of New Jersey approves our recent incentives application we hope to create offices in both Hackettstown, N.J., and Newark, N.J., in 2020."

Last year, Mars announced it would combine its chocolate business, known for brands like Snickers, M&M's and Twix, with its Wrigley candy business, thus forming Mars Wrigley Confectionery.

Mars already has more than 2,400 employees, five factories and five Chicago offices in Illinois -- including the North American headquarters for Mars Food, which recently moved from Los Angeles to Chicago.

If Mars Wrigley Confectionery chooses Newark, it would locate a total of 483 jobs at the new site -- 370 from an existing facility in Hackettstown, N.J. and 113 from Chicago -- and make an estimated $42 million capital investment, according to the New Jersey board document summarizing the plan.

It would also move 92 jobs from Chicago to Hackettstown, where it's considering an additional $52 million upgrade at the existing facility there.

Mars Wrigley concluded that New Jersey was the more expensive option and that therefore the tax credits are a "material factor" in the decision, according to the document.

The New Jersey incentives approved comprised about $31 million for the Newark site and another $1.1 million for the Hackettstown site over a 10-year period.

The board approved the incentives in a 11-0 vote Tuesday with one recusal, according to Erin Gold, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

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