Coca-Cola bottling plant sold; employees to keep jobs

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 9, 2002

Coca Cola Bottling Co. of Austin and Rochester was sold at 3 p.m. Thursday to Midwest Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Eagan.

"I'm out of a job," joked Chuck Wilson, former owner of the Coca-Cola plant, based in Austin.

Wilson announced last month that he would be selling the plant to Midwest Coca-Cola after his general manager decided to retire.

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Since then, Midwest Coca-Cola has rehired all 50 employees and updated computer systems at the offices, Wilson said.

All employees are remaining at the plant, but two plan to retire.

"They worked yesterday," Wilson said. "All trucks went out with the same guys in them."

The transition has been mostly smooth, Wilson said, with a few glitches relating to new technology in the plant. The new owners have been becoming familiar with the plants' routes.

"They've been coming down and getting acclimated with all of our accounts," Wilson said.

The terms of the sale were not disclosed.

The Austin and Rochester facilities distribute 1.5 million cases of Coca-Cola products annually to Mower, Steele, Dodge and Olmsted counties. Wilson declined to disclose the company's annual revenue.

The Rochester plant brings in two-thirds of the company's revenue. Midwest was primarily interested in the Rochester plant, Wilson said.

Midwest has annual revenue in excess of $500 million. It distributes Coca-Cola products to Minnesota and portions of North and South Dakota, Iowa and western Wisconsin and employs 1,500 people statewide.

The acquisition is not expected to cause major changes at the Austin and Rochester plants, said Kevin Morris, spokesman for Midwest Bottling.

The Austin Bottling Co. was founded in 1924 and moved into its current facility in 1947. The Wilson family purchased the Rochester franchise in 1957.

In the late '40s, when Wilson joined the family business, there were 1,300 family-owned bottling franchises in the country, he said. Now there are only about 75, seven in Minnesota.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report

Cari Quam can be reached at 434-2235 or by e-mail