Despite fierce opposition from the local water management district staff, and concerns that it would deplete an already scarce natural resource from the people who live there, Nestle managed to secure a deal to pump nearly 1.5 million gallons of water a day into their Deer Park bottling plant for the next ten years. Nestle pays no other fees for the water beyond the $230 license—in fact, “Nestle has received two [tax] refunds totaling $196,000 and requested a third tax refund.” To make the matter even more offensive, the plant hasn’t delivered on its commitment to employ 300 workers, and it so far has failed to bring in the estimated $12 million-a-year to the local economy. The St. Petersburg Times has a rich, infuriating history of the Nestle fiasco and how they’ve conned Floridians out of their own water with the help of state politicians.
The state did much more than fight to get Nestle the right to pump as much water as possible from the spring.
As an added incentive for Nestle, the state approved a tax refund of up to $1.68-million for the Madison bottling operation. To date, Nestle has received two refunds totaling $196,000 and requested a third tax refund.
Nestle had promised to create 300 jobs over five years. The most people it has ever employed was about 250. The number dropped to 205 late last year, 46 of them from Georgia, which Nestle defends as common for a work force along a state line.
The state estimated that the plant, which has a payroll of $6.5-million, would bring some $12-million a year in direct economic benefit to the county and the region.
The state says its work on behalf of Nestle was well worth it because the county was dealing with the shuttering of its other major economic engine, the meat-processing plant.
“This project was very important to the economic health of this rural county as the community recently suffered the closure of a major private-sector employer with the resulting loss of several hundred jobs,” Page Bass, spokeswoman for the state Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development, said this month.
The Nestle plant opened in 2004. The Smithfield meat plant closed in 2006.
A Nestle spokesman gave what’s possibly the stupidest soundbite ever when it comes to corporate spin and depleting the local water supply:
McClellan, the Nestle spokesman, said bottled-water companies should not be singled out.
“Treat us like any other user,” he said. “People do not take bottled water and wash their dog. They do not wash their car with it. They drink it. That’s the highest and best use of water.”
“The profits on water are huge, but the raw material is free “ [St. Petersburg Times] (Thanks to Sandra!)
(Photo: “There Will Be Blood”)