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Ferrara Ribbon Cutting Ushers In Sweet Era For DeKalb

Jenna Dooley
The Nerds product line will be produced at the DeKalb complex.

The North American candy maker Ferrara held a ribbon cutting in DeKalb for its new 1.6 million square foot distribution center.

Jenna Dooley
DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes (right) tours the Ferrara candy complex

For local and state officials, the event felt like they’d won the “golden ticket.” But in this case, DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes says snagging the sugar powerhouse wasn’t about luck but opportunity.

“Start the conversation with ‘Yes, it sounds like a great project, and we can’t wait to have you part of the community.’”

There will be 500 jobs headed to northern Illinois courtesy of the maker of candy canes, cookies and the popular Nerds line.

Chief Operating Officer Mike Murray says the crunchy sugar candies are having a moment.

“Nerds in the last four weeks, year over year, have grown 150%,” Murray said. “I am not sure I can count that high, but it is keeping me very busy making Nerds.”

Representative Jeff Keicher channeled his inner Charlie Bucket as he took in the tour.

“As being a kid in the 80s, Nerds are iconic,” Keicher said. “It was a combination of the right place with the right infrastructure, the right people helping to make the controls and the right company that saw the opportunity for our area.”

Ferrara, headquartered in Chicago, has 20 locations in the U.S. and employs more than 6,000 people – the majority based in Illinois.

Jenna Dooley has spent her professional career in public radio. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois - Springfield. She returned to Northern Public Radio in DeKalb after several years hosting Morning Edition at WUIS-FM in Springfield. She is a former "Newsfinder of the Year" from the Illinois Associated Press and recipient of NIU's Donald R. Grubb Journalism Alumni Award. She is an active member of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association and an adjunct instructor at NIU.