Whitener Snacks get Norco incentive grant

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 3, 2004

By LEONARD GRAY – Managing Editor

NORCO – A home-grown Norco business received a $150,000 grant to enable them to remain in Norco, heading off a potential move to Jefferson Parish.

Presentation of the funds were made Tuesday at La Maison Magnolia in Norco.

Whitener Snacks Inc. will now be headquartered in the old Ace Hardware building on Apple Street, at least through 2007, according to spokeswoman Renee Lapeyrolerie, and the company will spend locally to the amount of $125,000 annually during the same period.

The company will increase their payroll by at least three employees per year, with hiring preferences given to Norco residents, especially minority and female employees.

Whitener Snacks president Marc Whitener established the company in St. Rose in 1989 and relocated to Norco in 1997.

Since outgrowing his present facility, he had been looking to either return to St. Rose or find another location in Harahan.

The grant program, however, will enable Whitener to keep this Norco business in Norco and St. Charles Parish.

The program is one of the Norco Community Economic Development Foundation, which will be headquartered in the present, 4,000-square-foot Whitener Snacks building at 917 Third St., Norco. That office will be used for economic development and job-related training efforts, as managed by the Foundation.

Additionally, hiring of local teen-agers will get a boost, as part of the agreement with Whitener calls for recruitment of high school students for paid internships, summer jobs and opportunities for full-time employment.

In their year of study, one of the Foundation’s findings is that 34 percent of Norco teen-agers fail to complete high school.

The Foundation is made possible by an endowment gift of $5 million from Shell Chemical and Motiva Enterprises, and managed by the Greater New Orleans Foundation. When it was established, a community advisory task force was set up with people representing local organizations, businesses and government.

During the past year of meetings, according to Lapeyrolerie, the group was spurred on by their slogan: “Let’s make Norco as good as it can be, so our children can and will stay here.”

The five priorities of the Foundation are these:

€ Small business retention, with new jobs.

€ Career development and training.

€ Quality of life, land use and vacant buildings.

€ Youth opportunity.

€River Parishes/Regional/State partnerships.