Whirlpool firms up Michigan presence

February 5, 2011
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Whirlpool Corp. made a significant commitment to its future in West Michigan when it announced in July its plans to build a new office campus as part of a consolidation of its 15 owned and leased facilities to three centralized office campuses. Whirlpool officials have said they plan to invest $85 million in the company’s world headquarters, including the development in Benton Harbor. When the project is complete in five years, about one-third of the workers will be housed in each of three facilities in St. Joseph, Benton Harbor and Benton Township.

The changes “will allow the company to deliver on improvements in productivity, operations, energy efficiency and overall employee experience,” according to Jeff M. Fettig, chairman and chief executive officer, Whirlpool Corp.

The three campuses will include the existing Benton Harbor Administrative Center and St. Joseph Technology Center locations, and a new three-building campus to be located on Main Street between River Street and Riverview Drive in downtown Benton Harbor. In addition, the company plans to retain its Hilltop Drive South offices in St. Joseph and the Harbor Town offices in Benton Harbor.

The changes will allow the company to reduce its operating costs, provide greater flexibility to adjust to changing business and staffing needs and drive enhanced productivity. Additionally, the new buildings will be highly energy-efficient, built to achieve Gold LEED certification.

“Thanks to collaboration with our four local government bodies and with the state of Michigan, we will further strengthen our commitment to the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph communities,” Fettig said. “With more than 4,000 individuals in our current facilities, we have simply outgrown our current space. This initiative is a good business decision as the new campus and related changes are expected to increase productivity and energy efficiency, and reduce operating costs.”

In November, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority approved brownfield tax credits totaling $12.7 million for the new office complex in downtown Benton Harbor. The credits were approved in two separate proposals, one being $5 million on a $25 million investment and the other being $7.74 million on a $38.7 million investment, according to the MEDC. The land involved in the tax credits previously had been included in local brownfield plans.

According to documents presented to the MEGA board, Phase I will be construction of a 94,115- square-foot, three-story office building. Phases II and III involve demolition of other unoccupied buildings and construction of 126,500 square feet of office and commercial space. Improvements also will be made to the nearby Fisherman’s Park, the public park along the St. Joseph River.

Ground was broken on the office complex in November.

The business expansion project follows the Whirlpool Foundation’s significant involvement in the development and opening of Harbor Shores, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course and resort community developed by a partnership of community and business interests.

Whirlpool is the world's leading manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances, with annual sales of approximately $17 billion in 2009, 67,000 employees, and 67 manufacturing and technology research centers around the world. 

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