Photo by Michael Johnson

Joe Gardella, president of Sweetener Supply Corp., of Brookfield, Ill., shows some of the products his company makes — and will be making once it relocates to Wolcott early next year.

WOLCOTT — Sweetener Supply Corp. seems to have found its sweet spot in White County.

The Brookfield, Ill.-based company, makers of confectionery ingredients to numerous national and international food companies, plans to set up permanent operations soon at Mid-America Commerce Park near Wolcott.

Terms of the deal were not revealed, but company president Joe Gardella and White County Economic Development Director Randy Mitchell said the company is required, as part of its 10-year tax abatement deal, to build a 150,000-square-foot facility on 15 acres of property — a deal that was closed upon Thursday — as well as move and reassemble its existing equipment, and employ up to 30 employees by its first five years.

The most important aspect of the deal, according to Gardella, was obtaining rail service. A rail spur will be built by Genesee & Wyoming that connects a nearby rail line to the company’s planned facility in the commerce park.

“Rail service was the deal-maker or deal-breaker for us,” he said. “Rail service was a must.”

Gardella said the company also chose Mid-America Commerce Park for its proximity to Interstate 65 and its centralized location to its numerous clients in Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana.

Gardella said the company will break ground in spring 2020 and be fully operational by 2021. The facility will mostly manufacture powdered cellulose fiber for baked goods, pet food and various cheeses.

In March, Mitchell alluded to the company as a possible tenant during the agency’s annual luncheon.

“These guys fit our overall plan,” he said Monday. “This comes from a study we had done in 2015 which identified who we should be targeting. We’re thrilled. We’ve been working on this since the beginning of 2017.”

In addition to powdered cellulose, Sweetener Supply, established 30 years ago, manufactures, markets and distributes sugar, corn sweeteners, molasses and honey.

Gardella said the timing was right for the move to White County.

“We had a facility we had been in for about 30 years. It was our only leased facility. The Burlington Northern Railroad owned the facility and they wanted their property back,” he said. “We looked at several states — Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan — and White County came up with the best offer. Logistically, it made the most sense for our company and our customers.”

Gardella said the search for a new home began about five years ago, but Wolcott became a serious contender about two years ago.

“It’s been two years, really, of negotiations between several parties to get the deal done,” he said. “There were so many things the county did to convince us this was the right place to be. We’re very fortunate and happy to be here.”

Mitchell said the announcement is big news for White County residents.

“This is a good fit for us,” he said. “The two years (of negotiations) hasn’t been without its roadblocks. There were times when we wondered if we were going to do this deal or not. We persevered.”