When the giant cereal maker that created Tony the Tiger roars, residents of Battle Creek listen.
Facing the threat that the Kellogg Co. would leave town if they did not comply, residents of the city of Battle Creek and adjoining Battle Creek Township approved a referendum Tuesday merging their two governments.
Goaded by a combination of economic pressures that it felt jeopardized plans for construction of its worldwide headquarters, Kellogg said in May that if the jurisdictions refused to consolidate it would move to more favorable surroundings, taking some 700 executive-level jobs with it.
Chief among the area's problems, Kellogg said, was the lack of growth of the city (population 35,741) and the township (20,615), caused by years of territorial strife.
The vote in favor of the merger was overwhelming -- 10 to 1 in the city and 2 to 1 in the township. And one official called the turnout the area's largest ever.
The principal opposition had come from residents of the township, where taxes are expected to rise. The city's taxes are scheduled to decline as part of an equalization process.
The merger takes effect Jan. 1.
William LaMothe, Kellogg's chairman, said after the election that the firm would announce details for the construction of its new $30 million corporate headquarters early next year.
Earlier this year, the company also promised that if the merger were approved, it would create a million-dollar-plus kitty with monies it would otherwise have had to pay in city taxes over five years. The fund would be used to boost local entrepreneurs. Later, hundreds of other area companies agreed to contribute several million dollars to the fund to help create new jobs.
On Wednesday LaMothe termed the merger "a great victory for the people of the community.
"I'm very proud... to be a resident of one of the truly great cities of America," said LaMothe, who lives in the township.
Gary Costley, Kellogg vice president and merger spokesman, said the annexation approval should not be viewed as a triumph for the Kellogg Co. but as a tribute to the community.
"A tremendous coalition of business, civic, union, management and labor leaders formed to make this happen," Costley said. "The voters approved a formula for growth for Michigan and Battle Creek.
"The company played the critical role of teaming up the issue for economic development. It is the growth mentality that forged the community to the merger consensus," he concluded.