Monday, December 05, 2011

Chinese sweetener deal turns sour


By now, the SweetO plant on the edge of town was supposed to be up and running. It was supposed to be pumping out high-grade artificial sweetener by the truckload, paying nearly 200 people making $17.50 an hour, and serving as Exhibit A of how foreign — Chinese — investment could bring new life deep into the Missouri heartland.

Instead, the half-built plant sits idle, and the city could be on the hook for $39 million of the company's bad debt.

The apparent collapse last week of Mamtek USA's $46 million deal to build a sweetener plant in this central Missouri town is quickly becoming a sort of cautionary tale for those who ponder leaping into the rapids of the global economy. It also is becoming a flash point in Jefferson City jousting over a tax credit bill designed to draw Chinese investment to St. Louis and streamline incentives like those offered to Mamtek.

But in this old railroad town of 14,000 people, 30 miles north of Columbia, the swift disappearance of Mamtek and the jobs it promised is mostly just a disappointment.

It started with such promise.

More here.

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