Brandt President: McLean Co. Chosen Over 2 Competitors; HQ Possible Too | WGLT

Brandt President: McLean Co. Chosen Over 2 Competitors; HQ Possible Too

Nov 13, 2017

Brandt Industries expects to bring around 500 jobs to McLean County over the next decade and might even establish its U.S. headquarters in Bloomington-Normal, the company’s president said Monday.

Brandt wants to buy Kongskilde’s plant located between Normal and Hudson and turn it into its first U.S. manufacturing site. The Canadian company plans to invest more than $20 million in facility improvements to ramp up production of its agriculture equipment, Brandt President Shaun Semple told GLT.

That investment is contingent upon seven local taxing bodies approving a property-tax break of at least $600,000 over the next decade. Unit 5 school district is the largest of those taxing bodies. It’s set to lose around $400,000 in revenue over several years, according to terms of the agreement. Unit 5’s school board will vote on the agreement during a special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday.

Brandt chose the McLean County site over two competitors in Iowa and Ohio, Semple said. The Kongskilde plant was expanded and renovated in 2015, making it a “very modern facility,” Semple said. (Kongskilde is downsizing and plans to vacate the plant; it’s moving to Bloomington.)

Being closer to customers is key, Semple said. The company now manufactures in Canada.

“It’s right in the heart of the corn and soybean area, which is a focus for Brandt as we look to expand our reach into that area,” Semple said. “The agricultural land in this area is some of the richest land in the world, and we wanted to look at what we could do to manufacture products for that market—right there.”

Brandt was also attracted to McLean County’s strong technically proficient workforce, he said.

“In order for us to be successful at Brandt, we have to have good customers, capable employees, and communities that really support us,” Semple said. “We see Bloomington as a great area to be expanding to.”

The prospect of federal tax overhaul also influenced Brandt’s decision, he said. It’s possible those tax changes will make it more competitive for companies to manufacture in the U.S., he said.

“Those are really good signs to businesses who want to set up in the U.S.,” Semple said.

Brandt would have to hit certain hiring thresholds—scaling up each year—to get the local property-tax breaks. In the first two years, Brandt would have to hire 50 to 75 full-time employees during its “peak operations period” to get its property tax bill cut in half. From 2020-2022, 100 percent of Brandt’s taxes would be abated if it meets the hiring thresholds. That incentive then dips back down to 50 percent in 2023 and 2024, if Brandt has 300 peak-operations employees.

Brandt would also be required to donate equipment, student mentoring time, and other community service equal to 50 percent of its annual tax break, according to the agreement.

“When you’re starting up a factory from a dead standstill, and especially when you’re starting in a new country, there’s a lot of initial startup costs. This helps defer some of those costs,” Semple said of the tax breaks. “This really fulfills a commitment by the community to really want the facility there and want to see it work. We very much appreciate that.”

Brandt doesn’t currently have a U.S. headquarters. Semple indicated that the company could expand further in Bloomington-Normal under the right circumstances.

“We’re hoping to make it more than just a facility and just a plant,” Semple said. “There may be other things that we will announce once we’re moving ahead.”

The purchase of the Kongskilde plant would close Dec. 15.

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