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Gummy bear giant Haribo to build first North American plant in Pleasant Prairie with 400 jobs

Thursday, March 23, 2017   (0 Comments)
Journal Sentinel

Jason Stein

 




The German giant that originated the gummy bear will open its first North American candy factory in Pleasant Prairie, bringing hundreds of jobs and nearly a quarter-billion dollar investment to the rapidly growing border area, Gov. Scott Walker announced Thursday.

Haribo of Bonn, Germany, will invest $242 million in the plant and create 400 jobs there when the factory opens in 2020, the GOP governor said.

"These are well-paying jobs above market (salary) and they tend to offer a full benefit package," Walker said at a Capitol news conference.

Flanked by GOP lawmakers from the area and Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser, a Democrat, Walker said that the company has committed to build the plant but that the state is still finishing negotiations on an incentive package. Pleasant Prairie also is still negotiating the sale of the land, officials said.

Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Chief Executive Officer Mark Hogan said that the state wouldn't be able to talk about the tax credits or other incentives being offered until the contract for them had been signed.

Haribo gets its name from the first letters of the names of its founder Hans Riegel Sr. and its birthplace, Bonn. There in the wake of World War I, Riegel introduced the world to gummy bears, or as they say beside the Rhine River, "Gummibärchen."

The company is as iconic in Germany as popular American candies are here, with a Depression-era German jingle that translates as "Kids and grown-ups love it so — the happy world of Haribo." The company has nearly 7,000 employees worldwide who produce 100 million bears a day.

In a statement, company officials said the announcement caps a long search for the right site to build a massive factory for continuing its growth in the American market.

"Haribo has already been in the process of selecting a location for a first manufacturing facility in the USA for several years. In an elaborate process, we have examined many different sites. We are very excited to announce this important decision today,” said Rick LaBerge, chief operating officer of Haribo of America Inc.

A 438-acre site is being purchased by Pleasant Prairie for $37.5 million to be turned into the Prairie Highlands business park, with streets, utilities and other improvements to be financed through a proposed tax incremental finance district, Village Administrator Michael Pollocoff said. TIF districts work by using the taxes generated by new development to pay off the loans issued to fund infrastructure such as new streets.

A roughly 100-acre portion of the park would be sold, in turn, to Haribo, which would not receive any other local incentives, Pollocoff said.

Pleasant Prairie isn't a stranger to big players in the candy industry — the Jelly Belly Candy Co. also has a warehouse in the village.

"It's Candyland," joked Pollocoff, who noted that food processors are drawn by the area's proximity to Chicago, transportation infrastructure and access to Lake Michigan water.

The Kenosha area has attracted high-profile investments in recent years from companies such as Amazon that have translated into 8,000 new jobs, Walker said.

According to the Kenosha Area Business Alliance, more than $1 billion in capital investment and about 9.5 million square feet of new space have been announced for the county over the past four years.

The governor said that Wisconsin has benefited from financial and political turmoil in Illinois as well as Wisconsin's relatively low debt levels and exceptionally well-funded and well-designed state pension system.

"Who would have thought years ago that having a fully funded pension system would be appealing ... from an economic development standpoint. But there's no doubt about it, it is," Walker told reporters.

At the news conference, Walker also touted the fact that preliminary figures show that the state unemployment rate fell to 3.7% in February, the lowest level since November 2000.


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