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Activity At Chocolate Facility A ‘Positive Sign’

OSWEGO, NY – Any rebound for the Fulton’s signature industry is likely years away.

However, there has been activity recently at the closed chocolate plant. Still, activity in the courts, related to New York Chocolate is moving at a snail’s pace.

“The good news is that there isn’t any bad news,” noted L. Michael Treadwell, executive director of Operation Oswego County, the county’s designated economic development agency. “It’s a positive sign that there’s still activity at the site.”

Workers at the site have been repairing and maintaining the facility, Treadwell said following this week’s meeting of the county’s Economic Development Committee.

Nestle abandoned the plant and Fulton in 2003, after a century of chocolate production here.

In 2004, a company called New York Chocolate and Confections bought the facility and filled it with cocoa bean-roasting chocolate making equipment to replace what Nestle had sold at auction.  The company was created by an investment firm in the United States, working with the coffee and cocoa promotion agency of the African nation of the Ivory Coast.

But the plant became bogged down in controversy, as the investment company and the government agency traded accusations of fraud and embezzlement.  The issue is still in litigation.  In the Ivory Coast, as many as two dozen officials involved in the cocoa industry have been arrested as part of a corruption investigation over cocoa money, of which the Fulton plant is a part.

“We thought things would be resolved in the summer, and then it became September or October. Now it’s January or February,” he said. “The only thing that’s been accomplished during that time is that the proceedings have been extended.”

The court has ordered both the plaintiff and the defendant to spell out in detail their arguments to justify who owes what, Treadwell said.

Initially, the plant was going to do everything from bulk to finished goods with their own label, he said.

“When they start up, they’ll start up as a production facility and as a feeder plant for other customers, other companies to get their legs solid under them,” Treadwell said. “Then they will graduate into maybe producing some, maybe not their own brand, but a label for other companies. That’s what they were getting into. That’s what they were getting proposals for when everything fell apart.”