Gurnee company moves operations, 400 jobs to Kenosha
By Long Hwa-shu For Sun-Times Media September 13, 2013 10:02AM
Jim Hawkins, president and CEO of Kenall Manufacturing Co. in Gurnee, announced Thursday, Sept. 12, that the company will move to Kenosha. | Tina Johansson/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 15, 2013 7:27AM
The owner of Gurnee’s Kenall Manufacturing Co., a leader in commercial lighting, said the decision to move his company — and 400 jobs — to Kenosha was based on the future needs of the business, not just the economic incentives offered by Wisconsin.
“It’s perfect piece of property. It fits our needs. It’s the best business decision for us,” said Kenall president James Hawkins after a press conference Thursday, Sept. 12, at the Gateway Technical College near the Kenosha Regional Airport.
Kenall’s new location is on 34 acres off Route 158 across from the airport. The relocation means 400 jobs will go to Wisconsin as well.
In welcoming Kenall, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said the move “shows how serious and successful Wisconsin is in helping businesses expand their operations and create new jobs.” Last fall, Walker launched a $500,000 advertising blitz to lure Illinois companies to move to the Badger state.
This week alone, Wisconsin has bagged two from Lake County. In addition to Kenall, Hanna Cylinders of Libertyville said it planned to relocated its operations and 100 jobs to Pleasant Prairie.
While the two moves may still be viewed as a trickle, observers pointed out that over the years a coterie of Lake County companies have opened facilities across the border. The list includes Hospira, Jelly Belly Candy, Rust-Oleum and Cherry Electric, now part of ZF Industries.
Open and cheaper land, lower taxes, aid packages and generally more favorable business climate are the apparent incentives. Hawkins said he chose Kenosha out of a list of 25 sites in both states.
Hawkins said he plans to build a $32 million, 354,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Kenosha. Ground will be broken this winter.
By contrast, the company’s Gurnee facility consists of two plants totaling 140,000-square-foot at the Grand Tri-State Business Park across from Gurnee Mills. The property is already on the market.
For the move, Kenall has been promised an estimated $6 million incentive package. Hawkins declined to comment on the amount of the package except to say that the company has to meet certain objectives to receive it.
“It’s not finalized,” said Hawkins, pointing out that the company has to use its own resources and also borrow for the construction of the new facility.
Kenosha Mayor Keith Bosman, however, told the News-Sun that the city has committed a $4 million development grant to Kenall and Kenosha County has promised $1 million in “high impact” money. In addition, the Kenosha Area Business Alliance will provide Kenall with a $1 million forgivable loan. All of the commitments are contingent on the company meeting certain metrics, mainly to invest in Wisconsin and to create jobs.
“We are excited that Kenall has decided to make a major investment in Kenosha,” said Bosman, who called the company a “fast-growing, family-owned business.”
“We look forward to developing a solid long-term relationship with Kenall.”
Jim Kreuser, a Kenosha County executive, said the high impact funds will be granted to Kenall “to create development in the county and to create living-wage jobs.”
Todd Battle, president of the Kenosha Area Business Alliance, added that the alliance is working to attract more Illinois companies to Wisconsin.
“Companies in Lake County are land-locked. We have plenty of land, an educated labor force and good quality of life,” he said.
Hawkins said Illinois tried to keep his company in Gurnee but the incentive package offered couldn’t match that of Wisconsin. He also stressed that it was the future of the company that influenced his decision to move across the border.
“As Kenall continues to grow, this new headquarters is a commitment to our future and manufacturing in the United States,” he said.