Bit-O-Honey could move to St. Paul for a bit-O-money

Pearson Candy Co. wants to start producing Bit-O-Honey, currently manufactured in Illinois, at its St. Paul factory. But in order to relocate the iconic 89-year-old taffy brand, Pearson’s says it needs financial help from the state of Minnesota.

(MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson)

The company is seeking a $200,000 subsidy from the Minnesota Investment Fund, which would be used to offset the cost of moving equipment and other related expenses. The subsidy would come in the form of a $200,000 forgivable loan, which the company wouldn’t have to pay back if it meets job creation goals — 40 jobs paying $13 an hour created by April 2016.

“Given it has the potential to create a significant number of jobs, it seemed like it made sense to see if there were incentives here at the city and state level … to help us with that move,” Pearson’s CEO Michael Keller said.

Bit-O-Honey was part of Nestle USA, Inc. until this May, when it was acquired by Brynwood Partners, a private equity firm based in Greenwich, Conn., that boasts more than $900 million in assets under management. Brynwood bought St. Paul-based Pearson’s in 2011, adding to its confectionery portfolio, which also includes DeMet’s Candy Co., maker of Flipz and Turtles.

A memo from the St. Paul Port Authority supporting the subsidy argues that without state support, Brynwood could produce Bit-O-Honey at one of its other “confection plants” around the country.