March 31, 2006

Coke Plans Plant Near Hazleton

By Jerry Lynott, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Times Leader

Mar. 31--HAZLE TWP. -- Coca-Cola North America has plans for a plant on 65 acres of land in the Humboldt North Industrial Park.

A property transfer filed recently in the Luzerne County Recorder of Deeds office showed the land was purchased from HDP Asset Co. Two, Humboldt North Land LLC and PH Investors LLC for $6.5 million.

Coca-Cola spokesman Ray Crockett said the Atlanta-based company purchased lot 11 in the industrial park.

"The plant will produce non-carbonated beverages," he said Thursday.

The company's strategy calls for plant expansion to meet future demand need in the Northeast region beyond 2010, he said. Further details about the start of construction, planned investment and work force needed for the operation were unavailable.

Future growth appears to be in the non-carbonated sector. Earlier this month the online magazine of Brandweek reported Coca-Cola and competitor PepsiCo "have intensified their efforts to offer new beverage choices to consumers" as the demand for carbonated soft drinks drops.

Consumers are turning away from carbonated soft drinks to other beverages such as bottled water and sports drinks, the magazine said.

The park located near the Interstate 81 and state Route 924 interchange is owned by CAN DO, the economic development organization in the greater Hazleton area. W. Kevin O'Donnell, CAN DO president, referred questions to Coca-Cola.

The land was part of the 164 acres eyed by the Higgins Development Partners of Chicago. The company purchased lot 11 in 2003 and options to buy the adjacent lots 12 and 13. Gene Preston, a senior vice president in the firm's Morristown, N.J., office, said it sold some of the land to Coca-Cola.

Higgins Development Partners has other speculative building projects under way in the park. Easy access to interstates 81 and 80 make it an ideal location for distribution centers, the company said.

The proposed site of the Coca-Cola plant is within a Keystone Opportunity Zone. Companies that develop the property and create jobs can receive tax abatements and other financial incentives.

Jerry Lynott, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 829-7237.


Copyright (c) 2006, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Times Leader

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