From The Tennessean
By Kevin Walters
October 2, 2013
Thompson’s Station officially welcomed global pet-food maker Mars Petcare to its rolling hills Wednesday, marking a turning point for the tiny Williamson County town as well as one of America’s best-known brands.
Two years after state and company leaders first broke ground on the $110 million Global Innovation Center campus, officials threw open the doors this week on a new facility that company officials believe will give the privately held company a leg up — or at least a paw — in new research for its billion dollar pet food business.
“Everything about this campus is dedicated to helping pets live longer and happier lives,” said Mars Regional President Larry Allgaier in a statement.
The research center at Thompson’s Station joins only two of Mars’ other, similar innovation centers in Verden, Germany and Aimargues, France, that focus on developing new dry cat and dog food, the company said.
Mars’ arrival has focused the attention of other global companies on Thompson’s Station, which has a population of 2,681 and might be best known for its green spaces and rural lifestyle, not gleaming new buildings and laboratories.
“There’s been some folks that have been kicking our tires, if you will,” said Thompson’s Station Mayor Corey Napier. “Our aspiration is how do you recruit the next Mars? Mars gives you huge credibility as a town. If Mars will put $110 million into Thompson’s Station, what is it that they saw?”
More than 140 people will be employed at the facility, which is located at the intersection of State Route 840 and Highway 31.
The $110 million facility didn’t come without state and county incentives. In 2012, county leaders agreed to a $2.2 million 10-year property tax break for the facility while state leaders agreed to cover $10 million construction grant.
The new facility deepens the company’s ties to Tennessee where Gov. Bill Haslam sees Mars’ impact as going beyond Thompson’s Station. Mars facilities employ nearly 1,700 people in its other businesses.
“It’s one thing for a region to be known as having the ability to make things,” said Haslam during remarks Wednesday. “It’s a whole ‘nother thing for a region to be known as a place for people who are thinking about how do you make tomorrow better?”
The facility will house 180 dogs and 120 cats – many of which will be adopted from area shelters and will be adopted.
Reach Kevin Walters at 615-771-5472 and on Twitter @thekevinwalters.