Nestlé Waters benefits Michigan’s economy

STAMFORD – Nestlé Waters North America’s presence in Michigan represents some 765 jobs and generates around $ 160 million annually for the state’s economy, according to a new study commissioned by the Stamford-based company amid concerns about the company’s environmental impact.

Ice Mountain-branded water, which is bottled at a plant in Mecosta County, western Michigan and sold in the Midwest, is driving Nestlé Waters’ expansion of operations in the state. . As growth continues to generate more jobs and tax revenue, a business proposal to increase pumping output at another Michigan site has sparked controversy.

“There is a cascading effect of economic activity that occurs due to the initial spending and employment of the business,” said Jeff Guilfoyle, vice president of Public Sector Consultants, Lansing’s company, Michigan, which conducted the study, in a statement. “Nestlé Waters direct employees spend their money with Michigan companies whose employees, in turn, support more Michigan companies and their employees. “

The Ice Mountain factory employs around 280 people, with a total annual payroll of around $ 16 million, making it the ninth-largest employer in Mecosta County, according to Nestlé Waters. Workers there earn average wages that exceed the state‘s median income, about $ 50,000 per household, according to the company.

The Ice Mountain plant purchases approximately $ 51 million annually from suppliers in Michigan.

“We have known for years that Nestlé is an engine of economic activity in our region, providing jobs and investments benefiting the people of western Michigan,” said the president of Mecosta County Development Corp. James Sandy, in a statement. The PSC’s study further demonstrates the depth and breadth of their commitment to the Crown. “

Nestlé Waters is spending $ 36 million to upgrade the Ice Mountain bottling facility, capital improvements that include the installation of a new water bottling line. The modernization of the plant would create 20 additional local positions and 41 other jobs indirectly statewide, according to the company.

The expansion would bring Nestlé Waters’ total economic activity in Mecosta County and neighboring Osceola County to around $ 14 million per year and nearly $ 170 million statewide, the company predicts.

According to the study, Nestlé Waters’ existing operations in Michigan generate around $ 7 million each year in local and state taxes.

Controversial plan

Based on growing customer demand for Ice Mountain, Nestlé Waters has applied to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to increase its pumping capacity at its White Pine Springs well near the town of Evart in northern Michigan. .

Nestlé Waters wants to increase its allowable pumping rate to 400 gallons per minute, from a current limit of 250 gallons. In 2015, the state granted the company an increase from its original cap of 150 gallons per minute.

“Just because we’re submitting the 400 gallon request doesn’t mean that it will run at 400 gallons per minute most of the time,” said Nelson Switzer, sustainability manager at Nestlé Waters, in an interview earlier this year. . “It could increase somewhere near there from time to time, but that would be rather rare. The point is, we want to make sure that we don’t scale Evart beyond our authorized capacity. It is therefore important to have this authorized capacity.

The proposed increase requires approval of a permit, which has produced more than 50,000 public comments submitted to the state.

“We want to make sure that a candidate shows they are carrying out improvement projects that offset any measurable impact,” said James Clift, director of policy for the nonprofit Michigan Environmental Council, in an interview over early this year. “The Nestlé project basically offered nothing on this. They did not propose any improvement project in the watershed.

In response, Nestlé Waters officials said they have been undertaking projects for years to improve the Muskegon River watershed around White Pine Springs, a strategy they say includes more than $ 500,000 in contributions. to the Ice Mountain Environmental Stewardship Fund. In its request, the company proposed to address any negative impacts associated with pumping.

Clift said the Michigan Environmental Council would accept, but not approve, the request if it guaranteed that Nestl̩ Waters would improve the watershed Рplanting in non-forested areas would be one way Рand force the company to follow a plan. sanitation if water levels in surrounding rivers and streams were to drop below certain levels.

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