Ocean Spray Inc., the largest producer of cranberry juice drinks in the world and the largest employer in Bordentown, will close its Burlington County plant in 2013 and move its operations to Lehigh Valley in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Speculation that the juicemaker would close its production plant on Park Street in Bordentown City has been swirling since last fall, when the company first told the city that it was looking to move its 250-employee operation.

According to the company, the Bordentown plant (one of seven Ocean Spray bottling centers) is the oldest and most expensive in its inventory. Last year the company overall posted $2 billion in revenue; the Bordentown City plant produced more than 30 million bottles of juice.

Bordentown’s image has been connected with the company since the plant opened in 1943. The city’s annual Cranberry Festival, held every October since 1979, was developed in honor of Ocean Spray. The company is by far the city’s largest employer (many who work at the plant live in Bordentown) and contributes roughly $400,000 annually in taxes.

According to the company, the Bordentown plant is too costly to keep. The company is, however, planning to invest $120 million on its new plant, which will be in a yet-to-be-determined location near Easton.

City Mayor James Lynch and state assemblyman Joe Malone (whose 30th District office is in Bordentown City), have publicly stated bitter disappointment that Ocean Spray is leaving. Malone said that the city and state offered Ocean Spray several incentives to stay, including nearly $40 million in state-sponsored loans and as much as $10 million in tax incentives.

Officials have not said yet what might become of the plant after Ocean Spray leaves in September, 2013. The land, a 62-acre parcel on the edge of town, near Route 206, is zoned for industrial, but rezoning for mixed use reportedly is under discussion.

The subject likely will be part of the Greater Bordentown Area Mayors’ Luncheon, a program sponsored by the Mercer County Chamber of Commerce, on Tuesday, June 9, at 11:30 a.m. at Scottish Rite Hall on Dunns Mill Road. The theme for the luncheon is “Growth In Greater Bordentown: Visions of the Future.” Cost $40. Visit www.mercerchamber.org

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