Midwest Coca-Cola Bottling Co. is to close two distribution centres and expand an existing one. The company announced earlier this week that the facilities in Rochester and Mankato will close, with operations combined in a new, larger centre in Owatonna.

The two facilities each employ around 50 staff. The new centre, due to open in late-2004, will employ 100. Employees from Rochester and Mankato will be encouraged to apply for the positions in Owatonna. As the new centre is located between the two, the company expects many to stay with the company.

"This centralised location expands our reach throughout southern Minnesota and allows us to gain efficiencies as we achieve increased productivity," Jeff Laschen, vice president and general manager of Midwest told the Associated Press.

Midwest Coca-Cola Bottling Co. bottles and distributes Coke for most of Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa, and some of South Dakota and Wisconsin.