Bordentown prepares for life without Ocean Spray

Posted: March 07, 2014

BORDENTOWN After more than 70 years of producing cranberry juice in this small community, Ocean Spray will begin closing its plant to prepare for a move to a new facility in Upper Macungie, Pa., next month.

"As we ramp up operations in Lehigh Valley this spring, we will begin a ramp-down in Bordentown," said Kellyanne Dignan, a spokeswoman for Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., based in Massachusetts. "We expect some operations and personnel to remain through the summer and have communicated to our employees and local officials that there will be phased layoffs over the next six or so months."

The 500,000-square-foot plant in Bordentown has 138 employees, down from 250 a few years ago. About 100 Bordentown employees will be relocated to the new, nearly 300,000-square-foot plant outside Allentown, Dignan said. An additional 90 from the Lehigh Valley are being hired, she said.

The first layoffs in Bordentown are slated to begin May 2.

The company announced the move three years ago, sparking outrage among local and state officials, who tried to prevent the closing by offering more than $10 million in tax breaks and grants.

Pennsylvania had offered $4.52 million in state grants for infrastructure improvements and job training, along with low-interest financing for a new plant. Company representatives said at the time that it was cheaper to do business in Pennsylvania and that the new location offered better access to highways. They also said Bordentown was the oldest of the company's eight plants and the costliest to operate.

"Ocean Spray considered renovating our facility in Bordentown, N.J., but ultimately determined that the facility we need for our future could not have been duplicated at that site," Dignan said Wednesday.

"There will be a hole in our heart when Ocean Spray leaves, but when the dust settles we will look at it as a chance to have a new beginning in that area," Bordentown Mayor Joe Malone III said. He said the property was being handled by a real estate broker and a few interested parties had already come forward.

"It could be a combination of commercial and residential, as has happened in other places where industries closed," Malone said.

The processing plant in Bordentown has produced about 30 million cases of cranberry juice a year, about a third of Ocean Spray's output, according to the company. New Jersey is third in the country in cranberry production behind Wisconsin and Massachusetts.

856-779-3224 @JanHefler

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