By Jennifer Eisenbart
As 2016 draws to close, one celebration in particular lingers as a sweet memory.
This year has marked the 50th year that Nestlé has operated in Burlington.
In April the company celebrated the anniversary and also honored long-time employee Marilyn Elverman, one of the longest-tenured employees at the company.
The Nestlé plant in Burlington is the only plant in the United States that processes cocoa beans into chocolate, making chocolate not only for products made here but for plants in other cities, including Franklin Park and Bloomington, both in Illinois.
The Burlington factory produces Nestlé Tollhouse morsels, the Nestlé Crunch Bar, the 100 Grand, O’Henry, Raisinets, Goobers, Bunch a Crunch and Nesquik drink mix.
Toni Hansen, the human resources manager at the Burlington Nestlé plan, said the local 50th anniversary coincided with Nestlé’s 150th anniversary.
“We had two big birthdays in the same year,” Hansen said. The party in April was celebrated at Veterans Terrace with food and dancing.
Then-Mayor Bob Miller brought pictures and spoke, as did State Assembly Leader Robin Vos.
Vos presented a plaque that declared a Nestlé Day, and employees celebrated both the 50th in Burlington and the 150th overall.
“We had a good time,” Hansen said. “We filled up the entire Vets Terrace.”
Hansen said Nestlé works well in Burlington because of a great relationship the company and its 500 employees have with the city – ChocolateFest being a by-product of that.
Hansen said the plant is located halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee, enabling the company the opportunity to offer all different types of communities for employees to select.
“We can really draw from the Chicago labor market as well as the Milwaukee labor market,” Hansen said. “That helps keep the market where it is.
“You can live in just so many different types of places,” she added. “You can live in a small town, like Burlington. There’s all those little lake communities. You could live in a farm. You could live in Kenosha.
“You can root for the Cubs, or you can root for the Brewers, or you can be like me and root for both,” said Hansen, who lives in Kenosha.
The dedicated workforce has been a godsend.
“We have employees’ children, and sometimes employees’ grandchildren, joining us,” Hansen said. “To me, that’s why I find Burlington a special place to work.
“It’s the people.”