Tax-Free Zone Clears Way For Expansion at Cherry Plant, 50 New Jobs

It's been about three months since Shoreline Fruit first set its eyes on a tax-free zone. And now that they a have it, they say dozens of new jobs are on the way. The company recently got approved at the local and state levels to be classified as Agriculture Renaissance Zone — businesses inside the zone are exempt from taxes for up to 15 years. It's exactly what the company wanted in order to expand in northern Michigan. “Everyone has been very supportive of our project,” says Ken Swanson, C.E.O. of Shoreline Fruit. “Hopefully it's a win for everyone when you look at the big picture.” Swanson says the expansion is needed because it has reached capacity at its plant in Acme Township in Grand Traverse County. The company also has an operation in New York. Wayne Kladder, Acme Township Supervisor, was concerned at first but after doing the research, he and the township board decided it was worth it. Under this particular tax-free zone, the state reimburses certain tax units including the revenue loss to schools and libraries. “The pluses for this just… outweighed the negatives,” he says. “That will be good business for the farmers, it will be good business for the processing industry.” The addition is still in the design phase, but Swanson says they hope to break ground yet this summer. “The support that we have received from the state has really made it an easy decision for us to stay here,” he says. The company plans to hire at least another 50 workers, possibly more. It's making dried cherries a tasty snack in a region hungry for jobs. “That's how we're going to solve the problem,” says Kladder. “One baby step at a time.” 9&10's Ryan Raiche and Photojournalist Jeremy Erickson explain the plan.