Mars Plants Research Facility in Rolling Pasture of Thompson’s Station

Pets were invited to the Mars Petcare groundbreaking. Many speakers, including Governor Bill Haslam, mentioned their own dogs.

Mars Petcare, which makes well-known brands like Pedigree and Whiskas, has begun construction of a research facility in rural Williamson County. The Franklin-based company plans to hire 150 people.

The site includes laboratories, meeting space and pods where dogs and cats will live while they’re participating in studies.

David Macnair is vice president of research and development.

“The campus will serve as our home base for developing new breakthrough products that help make a better world for pets, a reality.”

Pets are living longer. Macnair says much of the research will be focused on joint care and how to manage conditions like arthritis.

Mars has five such innovation centers around the world. When it opens in 2014, Thompson’s Station will be home to the only one in North America.

Mars Petcare moved its headquarters to Franklin in 2006. It’s part of the same company that makes candy bars and gum. Including all of its business units, Mars employs nearly 1,500 people in the state.

Transforming a Small Town

Mars will become Thompson’s Station’s largest employer, which until now has been the local supermarket.

This $87 million research campus will rise up from former pastureland by state rout 840, which will finally connect to I-40 west of Nashville later this year.

Mayor Corey Napier describes Thompson’s Station as a “blank canvas.” It’s a town he and others moved to for the “rural vibe.”

“At the same time, we understand with 840 coming through our town and being sandwiched between Franklin and Spring Hill – two of the highest growth communities in our state – that if we didn’t do a good job of having a vision for our community and planning for our future, that we could get run over.”

Napier says he expects Mars Petcare to be a good fit but hopes the town can gain control of its own destiny. The city has now organized an economic development committee, made up of local business owners and concerned citizens.

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