Chocolate factory to provide over 100 jobs in Commerce

Commerce – Amidst a recession and rising unemployment, the City of Commerce takes a big step toward economic growth with its newest business: A chocolate factory!

Premium Cocoa Company, of Africa, has agreed to headquarter its new business in the city, providing work for at least 120 people, initially.

A welcome/information luncheon was held Thursday on the campus of Texas A&M University-Commerce to mark the agreement, which has been in the works for the last 18 months. Commerce Economic Development Director Jennette Burnett says about five other cities throughout the nation were looking to attract the business.

"There are so many opportunities," says Burnett. "I think the fact that we have taken the steps to be a visionary and not allow it to be a stumbling block because it's never been done it before, we're actually going to make a mark on the map for Commerce that is like none other."

The Premium Cocoa Company facility will be located on 87 acres of land off FM 3218, next to the Hydro Aluminum factory. Reports indicate it will take about 120 days before to form designs for the facility, then another two months to build. If all goes as planned dozens of new employees could be on the job by the end of the year.

CEDC will provide a portion of money toward the building of the facility, with the rest to be supplied by PCC. The company is reportedly investing $5 million on the business, which includes property taxes, the facility, equipment and payroll.

President and CEO of PCC Gabriel N-Guessan, Executive Vice President Yao Pascal and Economist Jean N-Dory were among the dignitaries on hand at Thursday's event; each expressing their appreciation and excitement of the future.

A&M-Commerce President Dan Jones feels the agreement will be a big step for the university as well, providing further interest in science and research opportunities for students.

Hunt County Judge John Horn called the agreement a stellar example of progressive standard of Commerce and community.

The new business is a big boost for Commerce, who lost 108 jobs when Zurn Pex Plumbing Systems was forced to close due to a decline in the home building industry.

CEDC Director Burnett feels a majority of those workers will be able to find employment with Premium Cocoa Company.

"I've lost sleep over Zurn because so many of the people out there I know personally and all the efforts that I spent behind the scenes trying to be able to save them," says Burnett. "Now with an opportunity for all of those people who were displaced, hopefully by the end of the year we'll have an opportunity for them to seek employment right here at home again; and that is priceless."

It'll take about 30 days to finalize the agreement with the city and PCC.