Nestle Public Meeting in McCloud Bigger Disaster Than Thought: Public Suffering “Nestle Fatigue?”

The newspaper headline simply said the “First Nestle Meeting Was Rocky,” but what the reporter describes sounds sounds like a near-death experience for Nestle’s Kearns & West facilitator – the firm hired to facilitate Nestle’s series of public meetings in McCloud:

The meeting, put on by Nestle and facilitated by Kearns & West, a California public relations company hired by Nestle to mediate and negotiate dialogue within the McCloud community about the contentious proposed bottling plant, saw a turnout of close to 150 people, many of whom were hoping the forum would live up to its billing as a chance for both sides of the issue to meet and work toward “mutual goals.”

But a weak effort at publicizing the meeting by Kearns & West in the days and weeks leading up to the event set the stage for those already distrustful of Nestle to come to the high school on the defensive.
Though Kearns & West, which bills itself as “a neutral third party,” had ample time to disseminate information about the meeting to the McCloud community, the company clearly failed on this front. A newspaper announcement the day of the event, coupled with Kearns & West’s last minute distribution of a letter inviting community members to the meeting, saw a number of the principle opposition voices miss the meeting altogether [ed: my emphasis].

Added to this was a lack of sufficient programs for the large turnout, poor acoustics in the gymnasium, and an equally poor presentation by Kearns & West’s facilitator Bill Pistor. Charged with moderating a meeting whose goals never became clear, Pistor spent nearly 20 minutes apologizing for the late publicity of the event, followed by another half an hour rehashing the familiar history of the Nestle issue.

Pistor spoke, often wholly inaudibly, while seated beside his projector until frustrated members of the audience called on him to stand and speak clearly into the microphone. His attempt to describe Kearns & West’s effort to gather information from a cross-section of the McCloud community was lost when audience members began to badger him about his ineffectual presentation style.

As Pistor again explained to the agitated audience that Kearns & West, though contracted by Nestle, was not a Nestle representative, Claudia Ellis of McCloud’s Brown Dog Gallery said from the back of the audience, “Your voice is so monotone. We can’t understand what you are saying. Nestle is one of the biggest conglomerates in the world. If this is the best that Nestle can do, this is awful.”

Frankly, it gets worse for Nestle, and in another post, we’re going to look at the two disturbing (if you’re Nestle) trends that emerged from the meeting.

First, the mistrust of the Swiss multinationals corporation in the town is running at an alltime high; according to the article, 80% of the attendees spoke out against Nestle, with only 20% speaking favorably of the big corporation.

Second, several speakers at the meeting cited what amounts to “Nestle fatigue,” saying the town doesn’t want to be confronted by this issue right away, and wanted the multinational to go away for a couple years.

Nestle, of course, is trapped between its “good neighbor” rhetoric and its desire to get its water bottling plant online as soon as possible, and what remains to be seen is how quickly the McCloud Services District  (MCSD) launches back into negotiations with Nestle when so much of the town clearly wants anything but.

There is a lot happeing right now in McCloud around the Nestle issue, so expect a lot of posts on the topic. In the meantime, the reporter’s article offers ample fodder for comments, and interested parties should feel free to leave comments both here and on the newspaper’s site.

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5 thoughts on “Nestle Public Meeting in McCloud Bigger Disaster Than Thought: Public Suffering “Nestle Fatigue?”

  1. Nestle is not dumb. They pay people a lot of money to look good. There are two possible reasons why this meeting went down: 1) Nestle wanted that to happen for some reason, perhaps so that the atendees would not go to future “Nestle unbiased 3rd party meetings”. 2) The “neutral” party found Nestle so egregious, that they manipulated the presentation. It will be interesting to see if Nestle finds a new company to represent them in the future. They certainly played around with attorneys when they went from Superior Court to Appellate Court. Because Nestle hired new attorneys, they were able to present “extra evidence”. Without that, non-factual “evidence”, I doubt that Nestle would have been able to win the appeal.
    Now, if that isn’t manipulation, what is.
    Perhaps there are other scenarios that I have not thought of.
    Anyone got ideas here?

  2. Betsy: It’s possible this serves some larger Nestle plan, but the reality – and this thought is fueled by my years of experience with corporations – is that Nestle might just be this inept.

    For years, they’ve had zero problems enforcing the same business template on community after community, but the reaction of the company – and its local representatives – to the recent adversity has been stunning.

    Nestle’s willingness to sue the tiny town of Fryeburg and its divisive communications in other communities (outside agitators, etc) doesn’t suggest a savvy company. Instead, it suggests one that’s far behind the curve when it comes to getting what it wants.

    This one will play out over time, but the Kearns & West disaster seems to be fueling a lot of McCloud residents’ desire to put Nestle behind them (except those getting paid to “love” Nestle).

  3. Thanks, Tom.

    It’s interesting that you talk about those who are getting paid to “Love Nestle”. I felt, back in 2003, right before the signing of the contract that there was a man who was paid by Nestle to come to town to “make sure things went smoothly” for Nestle.

    I still have strong suspicions about that man. He has managed to put himself in a position of “power” on the MCSD board. Nothing has dissuaded me from my original thoughts.

    There are others, who have received benefits from Nestle, not only in McCloud, but through-out the county and state, as well. The L.A. Times wanted to do a piece on “following the money” with Nestle and McCloud. Just before the article was to go to press, Nestle submitted a press release announcing that they were downsizing. Hmmmm!

  4. Betsy: The stories of Nestle moles seemingly pops up at every location. I’ll reserve judgment until something’s been proven, but it’s also a sign of the significant citizen distrust in Nestle’s process, which has always been far more concerned with getting water than it has with their impact on a town.

    I know of at least two letters to the editor (locally) written by people who have received compensation from Nestle, yet they weren’t identified as such in the letter.

    Then again, buying citizen support is so much easier than earning it.

  5. Having just watched TU’s episode on the McCloud and reading about Nestle’s efforts, I agree that they (Nestle) need to be stopped. I know of the McCloud, and have wanted to fish there but just haven’t been that far west yet. (For some reason, I just can’t seem to make it past Montana,Idaho and Utah) After seeing how beautiful a fishery it is, it would be a shame to have the headwaters (and whole river system) affected by the proposed bottling plant. I’m happy to see people that have the curage to stand up against what I consider “unnecessary progress”. People don’t understand the consequences of the bottled water industry and how it’s affecting the environment. Just because they bring in low paying jobs doesn’t justify the harm done. We need jobs, but we need to be responsible about it.
    Look at what’s happened in yesterday’s Charleston, WV ruling about mountain top removal coal mining. There will be devastating consequence as a result of this judge’s decision to save jobs! Big corporations have screwed our environment and face little or no punishment for what they’ve done. Well, I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna’ take it anymore! Sign me up!!!

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