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Baltimore's Pepsi Plant Will Stop Making Soda

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Pepsi is packing up production after deciding to stop making soda in Baltimore City, and they're blaming the new city beverage tax.

Kelly McPherson explains the decision also puts dozens of people out of work.

Pepsi will continue to transport products in and out of Hampden but no longer will carbonated beverages be made there.  Seventy-five workers have lost their jobs.  Pepsi says it's the economic climate---and something else.

"In the case of Baltimore, as you may know, there was a beverage tax that was passed here and in this case, it did not help in the decision in terms of keeping the Baltimore plant open," said Pepsi spokesperson Mark Dollins.

The two-cent per container tax created a fiery debate six months ago, prompting expensive lobbying from beverage companies, city unions and grocers. 

The mayor's office says Pepsi threatened job cuts before the tax was enacted.

"Meeting with Pepsi-Cola several months ago, they explained the economics of their operation here in Baltimore and it didn't look good at that time," said Ryan O'Doherty, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's spokesperson.

The bottle tax passed to help balance the city's budget, but it expires in three years.  The mayor's office says it's not off the table to extend the tax or to raise it from two cents a can to four cents a can.

City officials say they had no opportunity to convince Pepsi to stay.

"I'm just shocked that they're pulling out and I asked them if there was anything we could do at the city level with Baltimore Development Corporation and try to offer some kind of incentive and they said it was too far down the line," said City Council President Jack Young.

The bottle tax is paid by distributors like Pepsi.  Grocers have reported this month that sales are down in the city because nearby counties do not have the tax.

There were 320 Pepsi jobs in distribution and sales not affected by Monday's announcement.

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