Case IH marks 175 years in Racine County

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The last few years haven’t exactly been smooth sailing for the agricultural equipment segment of CNH Industrial. Revenues have fallen 40 percent since 2013, with the majority of the more than $6 billion decline coming between 2014 and 2015.

Kaleb Case, great-grandson of J.I. Case, talks with House Speaker Paul Ryan.

But Monday wasn’t a time to reflect on the decline; instead it was a chance to celebrate 175 years of operations in Racine County for Case IH, one of CNH’s two American brands in the agricultural industry. Fiat Group acquired Case in 1999 and merged it with New Holland to create CNH Global, which eventually became CNH Industrial.

The company marked the milestone with an event featuring proclamations from state and local officials and remarks from House Speaker Paul Ryan. CNH Industrial also announced $175,000 in grants to seven school districts to support STEM education. The grants included $25,000 for William Horlick High School in Racine to upgrade and replace science equipment. Other grants went to schools in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota and Nebraska.

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Employees and attendees were also treated to stories from Kaleb Case, the great-grandson of Case founder Jerome Increase “J.I.” Case.

Case noted his great-grandfather had lamented after selling the last of an early version of his threshers that having improved productivity would put him out of business because no one was going to need any more machines.

“He should be here today,” Case said.

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A lot has changed since Case first began building threshers in 1842. Today, the Racine plant, actually located in Mount Pleasant, builds Case IH Magnum series tractors along with transmissions for combines and cotton pickers and axles and vales for Steiger Series 4WD tractors.

Case operations once amounted to a city of their own in Racine County. Today, the plant covers around 620,000 square feet and employees around 500 people. While that figure is down from the past, the company still employs 2,500 people in Racine County.

“What made J.I. Case’s inventions transformative is the fact his solutions were responding to a strong need to feed a developing population. In the 175 years since then, the needs have changed and we have evolved,” said Richard Tobin, CNH Industrial chief executive officer.

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Tobin noted it’s difficult for companies to be successful as agriculture or construction equipment makers.

“It requires both persistence and a close understanding of the customers,” Tobin said. “The work that you do transforming sheets of metal and boxes of parts into cutting edge tractors and skidsteers or diving deep into our customers’ needs to help them get the right equipment is proof of your commitment to our legacy.”

Ryan noted 56 percent of the Magnum tractors built in Racine are exported.

A Case IH Magnum series tractor

“I just want to say how proud we are of who you are and what you do,” Ryan said. “This is something that has put Racine on the map. This is a company that people know about worldwide.”

Ron McInroy, United Auto Workers region four director, said it takes everyone from the shop floor to supervisors to engineers to top management to make the company successful.

“We all need to make this facility run. It takes each and every one of us in here,” he said. “As trade unionists, one thing we know is we want all of our brothers and sisters to go home with the same ten fingers that they have when they come in, we want them to be safe. But we also know that we need to make a quality product.”

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