Carmex maker to build new HQ in Franklin

Company in talks with city leaders over incentives

Last updated on January 15th, 2020 at 01:17 pm

Carma Laboratories Inc., the manufacturer of Carmex lip balm, announced it intends to construct a new global headquarters in Franklin, the same city where its headquarters currently resides.

The company said in a news release that it has narrowed its search to Franklin and has begun negotiating with the city for approvals and possible incentives.

Carma Labs is located in the Franklin Business Park. It has a production facility at 5801 W. Airways Ave., and has a distribution center and offices about a half-mile away at 9750 S. Franklin Drive.

Although the company did not go into details in the news release, such as possible locations for the headquarters, there are at least a couple of possibilities.

Recent Common Council action suggests the company could be eyeing a site at the northeast corner of West Ryan Road and South 76th Street. In December, council members approved an agreement with Minnesota-based accounting firm Ehlers Inc. to study the feasibility of a new tax incremental financing district there. The site is located south of Croatian Park.

Also, an entity affiliated with the owners of Carma Labs’ owns a vacant parcel just east of its distribution center, at 4710 W. Basswood Drive.

“As home to the Carmex brand for over 80 years, the greater Milwaukee area has played a significant role in our continued success,” Rich Simonson, chief operating officer of Carma Labs, said in the release. “We want our new global headquarters to reflect our long-term commitment to our employees and the city of Franklin. We very much appreciate the ongoing support from the community and look forward to this exciting next chapter of our family company’s history.”

Mayor Steve Olson said in the release, “Carma Laboratories has been a great part of Franklin for more than 50 years. We value the company as well as its employees. We are excited that they continue to be successful and are expanding here in their home city of Franklin. It’s been a pleasure to work with the Carma Laboratories owners and management on this major expansion of a brand that stamps ‘Franklin, Wisconsin’ on millions of products used all over the world.”

In a 2017 BizTimes cover story, company officials acknowledged their 44,000-square-foot production facility is the product of several additions over the years, making it difficult to move product through the facility. Its distribution facility being a half-mile away also means the product has to be trucked over for additional processing before it is distributed.

“Ultimately, we’d like to do a flow-through factory,” Paul Woelbing, president and co-owner of the company, said at the time. “If we had unlimited cash, I’d say let’s do it right now, but since we don’t, let’s do a meaningful thing; let’s really think about what we want (and) where we want to go.”

Associate editor Arthur Thomas also contributed to this report.

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Alex Zank
Alex Zank covers commercial and residential real estate for BizTimes. Alex previously worked for Farm Equipment magazine and also covered statewide construction news at The Daily Reporter. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied journalism, political science and economics. Having grown up in rural western Wisconsin, Alex loves all things outdoors, including camping, hiking, four-wheeling and hunting.