Ocean Spray plans to close its 250-worker cranberry concentrate processing plant in Bordentown, Burlington County, in September 2013, and move it to Lehigh or Northampton counties in Pennsylvania, Ocean Spray spokesman John Isaf told me.
Why now? Bordentown "is the oldest and highest-cost facility" still run by the Massachusetts-based Ocean Spray growers' group, and it's been looking for a new location "for several years," Isaf says.
Why the Allentown-Bethlehem area? Because it's America's Warehouse, or, as Isaf puts it, "a leading transportation hub," on the free Interstates that link Atlantic ports with I-80 and other roads east and west, north and south. Pennsylvania also offers lower power, water and trucking costs.
Are Pennsylvania taxpayers helping grease the move? "We are still looking at what programs may be available in PA," but the move "did not rest on what tax or economic incnetives are available." Rather, "the new location will have lower utility and transportation costs," it's closer to suppliers and customers, it's as cheap to build as it would be to renovate Bordentown, and operating costs are so much cheaper in PA that the difference is "too large to ignore."
Won't it cost more to truck Chatsworth cranberries all the way to the Allentown-Bethlehem area? "We don't ship (Jersey) cranberries directly to Bordentown," says Isaf. Instead they go to the Ocean Spray juice concentrate plant in Middleboro, Mass. The concentrate comes back to Bordentown "in tankers for blending and bottling."
What happens to the 250 non-union workers in Bordentown? Ocean Spray promises "the most generous incentive, relocation and transition packages in our cooperative's history." No details yet.
Burlington County Times has comments from upset Bordentown town fathers.