Growth fuels Master Lock’s Oak Creek decision

Company hiring dozens for HQ, Milwaukee production facilities

The former Caterpillar facility in Oak Creek.

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 05:01 pm

The Master Lock Company’s decision to move to a new headquarters in Oak Creek came down to access to talent and the ability to continue its growth, said Mike Bauer, Master Lock president.

The company’s lease will keep it in the former Caterpillar, Bucyrus and Midwest Airlines office complex at 6744 S. Howell Ave. for the next 15 years.

Caterpillar-OakCreek-2016-01-25
Master Lock signed a 15 year lease to for its corporate headquarters at the former Caterpillar office complex in Oak Creek. The facility was originally built as the headquarters for Midwest Airlines.

“We’re thrilled to continue to be in the local market,” Bauer said.

Master Lock has 350 employees at its current Oak Creek headquarters at 137 W. Forest Hill Ave. in Oak Creek. Those employees will transfer to the new facility and the company is looking to fill another 26 open positions for work in Oak Creek.

Master Lock, the security segment of Illinois-based Fortune Brand Home & Security, Inc., posted annual revenue of $552.4 million in 2015, a 14.8 percent gain over the previous year. The segment had revenue of $402.8 million in 2013.

The strong growth in recent years has been partially fueled by the acquisition of SentrySafe in 2014, which added approximately $145 million in revenue over the last two years.

Bauer said that acquisition brought about 70 jobs to the Milwaukee area. With the integration complete, he said Master Lock’s organic revenue is up in the mid-single digits through the first half of the year, while the market is up in the low single-digits.

Master Lock has also been able to grow through innovation, launching a line of Bluetooth enabled locks last year. Bauer said there is a technology aspect to the company’s growth as mechanical systems are transitioned to electronic ones, but he also said there is still a very large demand and install base for mechanical products.

Bauer said the company’s city of Milwaukee manufacturing facility at 2600 N. 32nd St. is at the core of its production operations and will benefit from future growth. The company currently has 14 openings posted for work at the facility.

For its corporate headquarters, Master Lock looked at locations in the Milwaukee area, including at least three sites in downtown, and out-of-state. Looking at neighboring states was about exploring potential opportunities and Bauer said “we owed it to ourselves and the organization” to consider the possibilities.

He noted the largest factors in attracting talent are culture and work environment. The new headquarters location will contribute to those, he said.

Bauer added the company was cognizant of employees who have built their lives around working in Oak Creek and there would be minimal disruption with the move.

Oak Creek’s growth with the Drexel Town Square development and recently announced Ikea store plans “absolutely” played a role in the headquarters decision, Bauer said. Proximity to the airport, Amtrak stops, public transportation and a short drive to downtown Milwaukee, were also factors, he said.

City of Oak Creek officials have also met in closed session recently to consider a proposed development agreement and tax incremental financing district for the property, but have not released details.

Bauer said the new facility will largely be a turnkey opportunity for Master Lock. He said there are a handful of things the company will need to retrofit, including making room for its model shop, which handles 3D printing and prototyping.

“That’s a critical aspect of our product development process,” he said.

Master Lock expects to complete its headquarters move by early 2017.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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