Coca-Cola moving to Waterbury

NAUGATUCK — Coca-Cola will leave Naugatuck but won’t go far.

The soda company plans to move its local bottling operation and distribution facility from the Naugatuck Industrial Park to the former Napoli Foods distribution facility at 479 Chase River Road, the real estate company R. Calabrese Agency, which represents building owner Napoli Foods, announced in an emailed news release Tuesday.

“The day it was announced in the newspaper that Coca-Cola was leaving Naugatuck, the mayor (Neil M. O’Leary) asked me to pursue it,” said Joe McGrath, Waterbury’s economic development director. “It seemed like a perfect location because of its location between Route 8 and I-84. They were in Waterbury for 50 years on North Main Street, so this is kind of a welcome back to the city for Coca-Cola.”

Borough officials attempted to reach out to Coca-Cola last year when they heard the company may be looking to move out of Naugatuck. They talked with Coca-Cola officials about ways to keep the company in Naugatuck.

Ultimately, though, the company’s representatives told officials they wanted a facility where they could move toward a cross-docking loading practice, which involves unloading products from an inbound trailer and loading them directly onto outbound trucks with little or no storage in between. The company said there were no suitable buildings to do that in Naugatuck.

Cross docking will be possible at the Waterbury location, where the company will operate as after Jan. 1, according to a lease, the details of which could not be confirmed Tuesday.

In Naugatuck, Coca-Cola was eligible for significant tax breaks because the borough is in the state’s enterprise zone corridor. Waterbury is also in that corridor, so the company will be eligible for tax breaks in the city, as well.

In 2000, the company moved into a $6 million distribution warehouse at 80 Rado Drive owned by real estate developer Bob Scinto.

At one point, the company reportedly had 260 employees in Naugatuck. As of the spring, it had approximately 170 employees here.

McGrath said the city did not pursue Coca-Cola before it announced it was looking to leave Naugatuck.

“We were one of three or four locations they were looking at, and we went after them pretty aggressively,” he said.

Ron Pugliese, chief operating officer at the quasi-public Naugatuck Economic Development Corp., said the borough has been aggressive in working to fill the space where Coca-Cola currently operates. YoCrunch, which has four locations in Naugatuck, plans to consolidate some operations into the 70,000-square-foot building at 80 Rado Drive, Pugliese said.

“They were looking to possibly move out of Naugatuck, and we were able to keep them here,” he said.

In the end, he said, Naugatuck will come ahead in the taxes generated from YoCrunch over what it will lose from Coca-Cola, he said. The exact numbers could not be confirmed Tuesday because Naugatuck Town Hall was closed.

“We would have liked to have kept Coca-Cola, but we couldn’t offer them a building they were looking for at this point,” he said. “However, the reality is that building will not sit vacant and keeping YoCrunch here is positive for Naugatuck.”