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Nestle a Good Corporate Neighbor? Not to Highly Respected McCloud Businessman

In an attempt to mitigate the traffic impacts of Nestle’s proposed water bottling plant in McCloud, a highly respected McCloud businessman crafted a railroad transportation plan, and thought he’d created a solution that worked for everyone.

When he took his idea to Nestle, he met a wall of indifference to point where several meetings were canceled at literally the last minute.

While it remains to be seen if Forbis’ solution would have worked, the episode this angered locals who wanted to see the area’s railroad heritage respected – and didn’t want to see 300 trucks per day rolling in and out of town.

This excerpt from the Mount Shasta Herald describes Forbis’ discussion of the issue at a McCloud Services District meeting:

Forbis [ed: the local businessman and owner of the McCloud Railroad] then went on to describe his negotiations with Nestle over the years about the train servicing the proposed bottling plant as being “coolly received” by the water bottling company. Though admitting that an outside assessment of his company’s ability to ship Nestle’s bottled water from McCloud came up with economic figures which “weren’t what I had hoped for,” he described to the board a history of failed negotiations with Nestle which included Nestle cancelling meetings with him at the last minute.

Nestle’s Dave Palais responded by saying, “What Jeff said is correct. We did have missteps in getting Jeff to talk with our logistics people. We did have a couple meetings scheduled that got cancelled. It frustrated Jeff and it frustrated me. But you can’t just come to a company without a detailed concept. I told Jeff that early on… [Nestle] has had bad experiences with rail… problems with rail delivery schedules.”

Board member Al Schoenstein told Palais, “It appears that a serious effort wasn’t made to talk to Jeff… You probably could have worked with him more seriously, it would have been a ‘good neighbor’ policy to work with Jeff… He did go to meetings where nobody was there to meet him.”

One audience member told Forbis, “You’ve gone out of your way with Nestle, they’ve been dangling a carrot before us to get a contract. It’s a game.”

Now that Nestle’s original plans for a million-square-foot water bottling plant have been scrapped, the world’s largest food and beverage company wants to enter into new negotiations with McCloud, yet several missteps have led to a growing chorus of locals calling for local economic development – businesses more accountable to the community.

Many want to revisit the municipally owned water bottling plant idea that was rejected by the same McCloud Services District Council who negotiated the original (and wholly lopsided) Nestle contract.

Others point to the recent community meetings featuring the Willits Chamber of Commerce and rural economist Michael Shuman as possible paths.

It’s clear that Nestle’s latest PR efforts revolve heavily around a “good corporate neighbor” message. In fact, their just-released Corporate Citizenship Report features the title “The Shape of Citizenship” and a subhead of “Creating Shared Value.”

Sadly, where it counts, Nestle’s “good neighbor” policy falls far short of the hype – especially when it comes to respecting the local values and culture of a rural community.

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