SAINT CLOUD, Minn. - Political and business leaders crowded into an upstairs room at the defunct Donlin Company plant to hear good news Tuesday morning. A German agricultural machinery manufacturer has chosen the plant as its North American facility.
Geringhoff is a 130 year old company, based in Ahlen, Germany. It is known for its harvesting equipment, particularly its innovative corn harvesting "headers", the attachments at the front of a combine. One of the header designs is 45 feet wide.
The retooling and hiring at the Geringhoff plant is to begin immediately.
"Right now, we are accepting applications," said Joseph Jandrisch, Geringhoff CEO for North America. "If you go to geringhoff.com, you click on a link to apply for a position, be it in manufacturing, welding, assembly, management, engineering, information technologies, systems analyst, a full gamut of positions."
Jandrisch indicated that Geringhoff might hold a "job fair" to fill some positions.
The plant is a non-union shop. Jandrisch insisted that wages will be good. "We checked the pay scale and we know we are going to pay as well or better for those specific jobs in this community, certainly very competitive on a national scale, but they range anywhere from enough to feed your family to several hundred thousand a year."
Geringhoff's CEO is a 5th generation member of the founding family. Daniel Hansmeier is just 31 years old. He explained the family is very important to the company and how Minnesota was selected over locations in Indiana, Ontario, South Dakota, Iowa and Kansas City.
"Why are we here? Why did we choose Saint Cloud? Actually, it is because of the people," said Hansmeier. "At the end of January, we came to Saint Cloud and we were really, really impressed by the people, how much effort they put into it (the proposal), how helpful they were."
Ahlen, at 53,000 residents, is approximately the same size as Saint Cloud.
There were many references on Tuesday to Minnesota's German heritage. Saint Cloud Mayor David Kleis welcomed the German visitors in their native language. Governor Mark Dayton explained that he was "half-German" on his mother's side. "Your English is so much better than mine, Mr. Hansmeier," he joked.
Dayton referred to his youth in a light-hearted manner, "I took German in high school. If I knew I would have a chance to use it, I would have paid more attention."
On a serious note, Dayton said it was a "sensational day for Saint Cloud and the State of Minnesota."
Donlin Company was in Saint Cloud for 88 years before closing the plant in October, 2011. 30 jobs were lost. The 9.9 acre property includes a manufacturing area of more than 106,000 square feet.
Mark Phillips, Minnesota's Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development, joined the celebration. His DEED Department designated the Airport Industrial site as a "Shovel-ready certified site", meaning the process for development can be streamlined. Much credit for attracting Geringhoff was also given to the Greater Saint Cloud Development Corporation.
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