German gummy bear maker Haribo has finally broken ground for construction of its first U.S. manufacturing plant in Pleasant Prairie, more than three years after initially announcing its plans.
The first phase of the project will be around 500,000 square feet and employ 385 when completed in 2022. Future expansion phases could bring employment to more than 1,000. The company is investing more than $300 million in the initial construction of the campus.
"With this substantial investment, we're strategically setting our business up for long term growth in the U.S., and we are looking forward to a bright future," said Hans Guido Riegel, managing partner of the Haribo Group.
Haribo originally announced plans for a Wisconsin manufacturing facility, its first in the U.S., in the spring of 2017. The company picked its site along I-94 over seven locations in Illinois, including the Sears campus in Hoffman Estates.
Company and economic development officials have attributed the delay in the project, originally expected to begin in 2018 with production starting in 2020, to Haribo’s thoughtful approach to designing its facility and emphasis on its product quality.
Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. records also indicate that negotiations over a development agreement between the village and Haribo “were more complex than anticipated,” contributing to the project delay.
Either way, the project has now broken ground with Gilbane Building Co. selected as general contractor in October.
To mark the occasion, Gov. Tony Evers declared Friday as “Haribo Gummy Day” in Wisconsin. The Hoan Bridge in Milwaukee will also be lit in the primary colors of Haribo’s gummy bears on Friday evening.
“We are just really excited about the opportunity Haribo presents for the region,” Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, said during a media call to mark the occasion on Friday.
Sheehy said that in a challenging year, the Haribo project moving forward is a recognition of the assets and resilience of the southeastern Wisconsin region.
Jim Paetsch, vice president of corporate attraction at Milwaukee 7, noted that the investment in Wisconsin is the largest in Haribo’s history.
“It gives you a sense of how bullish they are on southeastern Wisconsin,” Paetsch said.
He said workforce and real estate were major factors in Haribo picking Wisconsin and the investment in the first phase has grown since the project was announced.
“It’s a dynamic market that’s evolving,” Paetsch said, explaining that Haribo had a more niche presence in the U.S. a few years ago but has seen sales grow and wanted to make sure it had manufacturing capacity to meet consumer demand. “Those bears are now starting to appear in all kinds of different places.
The corporate headquarters for Haribo’s U.S. operations remain in Rosemont, Illinois. Paetsch said attracting that work to Wisconsin is on M7’s radar, but no change is expected in the near-term.
“We tried very hard to make that happen,” Paetsch said, noting that the Rosemont offices are close to O’Hare and benefit from proximity to a concentration of other food and beverage corporations.