Sugar tax sours candy business
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent August 30, 2011 4:24PM
Mike Beeson, left, offers a sour-apple Gummi bear to Indiana Senator Richard Lugar during a tour of the Albanese Confectionery in Hobart Tueday Aug. 30, 2011. Lugar's visit is part of his "Sweet Jobs" tour of the state bringing attention to U.S. sugar policy that makes it hard for companies to compete in the international marketplace. Albesese owner Scott Albansese looks on in the background. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 23, 2012 3:40AM
HOBART — The owner of Albanese Nut and Candy Co. said Tuesday the business would be growing larger, faster and hiring more people in the process if it weren’t for a federal sugar tax imposed on American businesses.
“Would I be able to do things faster without the tax? The 20,000-square-foot expansion under way would be 80,000 square feet ... The five- to seven-year plan to have 480 employees would be done in three years,” Scott Albanese said.
Albanese said the company employs about 200 people.
Albanese had a sympathetic ear from U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, who stopped by the store at 5441 E. Lincoln Highway for a tour and to tout the Free Sugar Act, of which he is the chief sponsor. The act would end the decades-old U.S. sugar program that benefits sugar cane and sugar beet farmers, but results in American businesses paying about twice as much for sugar as those in other countries.
“This is about keeping businesses here,” said Lugar, who is taking his “Sweet Jobs” tour across the state visiting factories and retail stores to see how sugar tax reform could help increase jobs and investments in Indiana.
Albanese said American businesses pay 60 cents a pound for sugar, while the cost in other countries is 35 cents a pound. He said the additional money goes directly into the farmers’ pockets. Albanese said he purchases about 6,000 1-ton totes of sugar each year.
“I’m little. Imagine how much these farmers are getting from Hershey’s,” Albanese said.
Lugar, whose family owns a farm and who is against subsidies, said while the corporations haven’t left the U.S., a number of their manufacturing facilities and the jobs that go with them have gone to places where sugar is cheaper. He said the current U.S. sugar policy has contributed to the loss of an estimated 112,000 jobs in American sugar-using industries from 1997 to 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
In 2007, Indiana employed more than 18,000 workers in confectionery and other food and beverage manufacturing jobs, Lugar said.
Albanese said the Lifesavers company left Michigan due to the high cost of sugar, even though the state offered the firm $30 million to stay. Brach’s left Chicago several years ago and built a new plant in Mexico, which Albanese said was paid for with the company’s sugar savings.
Lugar said he has growing bipartisan congressional support for reforming the policy.
Lugar also said the Sugar Act is not the end of the road for him. He said many small businesses are hurt by all sort of federal regulations placed on them.
“Sen. Lugar can make the environment better, or in our case, fair,” Albanese said. “We would like the government to leave us alone.”