TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) South Topeka is inundated with Martians - and state and local officials say that's a good thing.
Mars Incorporated threw a sweet grand opening Thursday for its new $270 million plant that will produce millions of chocolate bars and other sweets every day. Employees lined up for the event, clad in their white uniforms. They say Mars employees really do refer to themselves as Martians and use the term proudly.
The Topeka facility is the first new Mars plant in North America in 35 years. Mars North America President Debra Sandler says it is a proud day to be opening a plant in the U.S. to produce a U.S. product for the U.S. market.
The plant will have the capacity to produce 14 million bite-sized Snickers bars or 6 million fun-sized bars, plus 39 million M&M's each day. Topeka Site Manager Bret Spangler says the plant also was built with expansion mind. It currently runs two production lines but can accomodate up to five.
Local and state officials joined the company at the grand opening of the brand new 500,000-square-foot plant that will bring about 200 jobs to the Topeka area.
The event was highlighted by Gov. Sam Brownback, Sandler and Mars Inc. Chairman of the Board Victoria Mars in pressing a ceremonial button to formally launch production at the facility in south Topeka. Spangler says the plant began producing Snickers in January, with peanut M&Ms starting to roll off the line two weeks ago.
The company looked at 80 sites in 17 states before selecting Topeka. Both Sandler and Mars said the people in Topeka were the deciding factor in the decision. They said the people in the area had the same guiding principles as the company.
"The Mars associates are now the most important players in determining the success of this factory," Mars said. "We the family are handing the keys to you."
Spangler says Mars is commited to being a good partner with the community. He says associates already volunteered at a Habitat for Humanity home. In addition, Mars donated $200,000 to the downtown Topeka revitalization project. The company also opens a temporary "pop-up" store Friday at 713 S. Kansas Ave. Proceeds from special "Made in Topeka" M&Ms merchandise will be donated to the downtown project as well.