Nestle’s announcement that it was leaving McCloud wasn’t wholly unexpected, but in many ways, it’s still difficult to entirely believe the project is dead.
Nestle has chosen to continue its belated flow studies, and the MCSD was choosing a water committee to study the issue (some charge the committee was being stacked with pro-Nestle members).
And while it’s tempting to credit Nestle’s egress entirely to local activists (Concerned Citizens, McCloud Watershed Council, Protect Our Waters and CalTrout chief among them), the market clearly played a strong hand.
After all, Nestle’s bottled water revenues were down 3% the first half of this year, and it’s clear their “premium” spring water brands took a much bigger hit in favor of their tap-water derived, less-expensive Pure Life brand.
With fuel costs running far higher than when the McCloud project was first conceived, and demand shifting to the “value” priced segment of the market, Nestle’s relocation to Sacramento makes a certain sense – as does their interest in building more, smaller plants.
Which raises the obvious question; had Nestle’s original (and astonishingly lopsided) contract with the MCSD been allowed to stand as negotiated, how many of Nestle’s promised jobs would still be extant in the town of McCloud?
On StopNestleWaters.org, we’ve long questioned Nestle’s promises of jobs to communities; the only real data we’ve seen published suggests the promises aren’t always real.
Nestle may not want to admit it, but they can’t have it both ways; if market conditions truly forced the move to a smaller, differently configured production facility in Sacramento, then it’s not hard to extrapolate to a present where McCloud would have been repayed for its water with an even fewer jobs than promised (many of those jobs of the sub-living wage variety).
It’s entirely likely a Nestle factory in McCloud would be running at a fraction of its built-out capacity – and McCloud would be experiencing yet another resource-extraction related economic bust.
Should the bottled water market continue to nosedive, what of the jobs Nestle dangles in front of other communities?
After all, Cascade Locks seems to believe the jobs provided by the company will save their town – and Sacramento seems willing to give up unlimited municipal water in return for only 40-60 jobs.
But what if those jobs are illusory, especially after three more years of a declining bottled water market?