Prejudice against Cargill’s presence in the small town of Orhangazi creates an opportunity for stronger community ties.
In 1990, Cargill announced plans to develop a corn milling plant in Orhangazi, a small town in Turkey’s Bursa province. The prospect of new jobs and major agricultural growth excited the community, but they had doubts and prejudice towards an American company with its different culture, values and people.
After the plant was completed in 2000, misinformation about Cargill’s intentions swirled: some said the plant would destroy farms and drain the lake; others that local farmers’ crops would not be used and no new jobs would be created.
The stories were a surprise to Cargill. Its plans for Orhangazi were rooted in growth and opportunity. Still, a survey of locals in 2003 revealed stunning levels of mistrust lingered. It was clear Cargill needed to set the story straight.
To better connect to citizens, the company introduced an ambassador, Cenan Celebci, a warm and engaging personality who visited villages, attended festivals and invited locals to the Cargill plant—all to build positive community relations.
“You need to invite the public to your plants to explain how you operate. You need to show who you are.”
As Celebci built trust, Cargill worked to strengthen the community’s future. Working with local leaders, the company realized there was a need, but no funds, for a local elementary school. The company decided to build a new school and opened its doors in 2006 to more than 500 students.
Today, it continues to support the school, considered one of the very best grammar schools outside of Istanbul in all of Turkey. Cargill in recent years has also invested in a health center and a local emergency medical clinic near the town’s busiest thoroughfare—one of many ways it is working to help the Orhangazi community thrive.