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Brandt To Receive $1.2 Million In State Tax Credits

Brandt Industries will receive $1.2 million in state tax credits to create its first U.S. manufacturing plant and hire at least 300 workers in McLean County, Gov. Bruce Rauner said Friday.

Rauner was on hand for Friday’s formal announcement that Brandt will acquire the former Kongskilde manufacturing plant, located between Normal and Hudson. Flanked by McLean County officials and five members of the Semple family which owns Brandt, Rauner said “this is a great day for the people of Illinois.”

Credit Carleigh Gray / WGLT
The plant would be Canada-based Brandt's first U.S. manufacturing facility.

“Illinois is the heart of agriculture in America,” said Rauner, a first-term Republican. “This plant is going to be making high-quality agricultural products for farmers across the U.S.”

Brandt chose McLean County for its plant only after receiving lucrative tax breaks from the state and local governments. Rauner on Friday announced the $1.2 million in EDGE state tax credits over 10 years. The company will only receive tax credits if they meet the job and capital investment terms and remain above the statewide baseline that will be outlined within their EDGE agreement. Once it’s finalized, that agreement will be posted online.

“Brandt choosing to invest within Illinois will bring new opportunity and jobs to Central Illinois,” said Jacquelyn Reineke, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. “This is a win for the state, and the department continues to work closely with the company to finalize their EDGE agreement for this exciting project.”

Brandt also will receive at least $600,000 in property-tax breaks from Unit 5 and other local taxing bodies, spread over 10 years. That amount could rise if Brandt expands its local operations.

Rauner, who has made his criticism of Illinois’ business climate a hallmark of his political messaging, on Friday said Illinois was nonetheless an attractive choice for Brandt.

“They see the future. They know what we’re trying to accomplish. They’re very supportive of our goals to make Illinois even friendlier to business,” said Rauner, who faces a tough re-election fight in 2018. “Their concern in coming to the U.S. is that they mentioned taxes in the U.S. are 14 percent higher than in Canada. That’s why I hope Congress can get tax reform (done) and lower the tax burden on our working families and our business owners to make us more competitive.”

Brandt’s acquisition of the Kongskilde plant will close Dec. 15. Kongskilde, which had around 100 employees, is downsizing and moving to another location in Bloomington-Normal, officials said. Brandt President Shaun Semple said he hopes to hire many of those Kongskilde workers.

Brandt’s overall workforce is expected to grow to 300 in the next decade—a condition of the local tax breaks that met some resistance but ultimately passed the Unit 5 school board, McLean County Board, and other taxing bodies.

Credit Carleigh Gray / WGLT
Kyle Ham from the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council speaks Friday, Dec. 1, 2017.

Semple acknowledged those concerns during his remarks Friday. Semple called it a public-private partnership.

“Our bid to purchase this factory has received excellent support locally, which reinforced our determination to reopen this plant and put local people back to work,” said Brandt President Shaun Semple, whose three sons also work for the company. “This acquisition is truly a story of cooperation.”

McLean County Board Chair John McIntyre, one of the chief dealmakers with Brandt, said Semple was a “tough negotiator” but said he warmly welcomed the company to the area.

“Being an old football coach, I wasn’t used to giving that many compromises, but we got through it,” McIntyre said. “This county is the agricultural center of this state and possibly the country.”

Some local elected officials were concerned about the process for negotiating the local tax breaks. Unit 5 school board members, who had to give up the most money in the deal, only saw a finalized version of the tax-abatement agreement less than 24 hours before being asked to approve it.

Though the negotiations began months ago, Brandt wanted to accelerate toward completion of the agreement, said Kyle Ham, CEO of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council. That meant local EDC and elected officials had to speed up the negotiations to land the plant, he said. Two other states were in the running.

“We can always look at the process and make tweaks to it, but every deal is different,” said Ham. “There’s always going to be challenges. Nothing’s going to be perfect. But at the end of the day, it’s done, they’re coming, and they’re going to create jobs.”

Manufacturing at the plant is expected to begin by March 2018, beginning with augers, belt conveyers, and grain carts for the U.S. corn and soybeans markets, Semple said. He said the 300-plus jobs that will be created will also spawn more jobs as Brandt builds out its supply chain. Rauner said Brandt may even bring product development and engineering work to the site.

Hans Rasmussen, who previously ran the Kongskilde facility, was announced as Brandt’s first Illinois hire.

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Ryan Denham is the content director for WGLT and WCBU.
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