There was a point where it seemed unlikely that Ingeteam Inc. would hit its target of 275 jobs in Milwaukee, but if the company continues to add employees in the way it has over the last three years, the Spanish manufacturer could be close to that figure by the end of 2018.
The company, which manufactures wind and solar power products, added 37 jobs in 2016, bringing its total employment to 187, according to documents submitted to the city. Ingeteam’s loan from the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee required the company to have a minimum of 145 employees for the year’s loan payment to be forgiven.
Ingeteam has exceeded the yearly minimum each year since 2014, when the Common Council amended terms of the company’s $2 million loan, citing “continuing weakness of the economy.”
The company opened its $15 million plant in Milwaukee in 2011. In addition to the loan from the city, Ingeteam received $1.6 million in federal stimulus tax credits, a $500,000 capital financing loan from the state and $4.5 million in state tax credits.
As a condition of the city loan, the company was required to hire 275 employees by 2015. The amendment of the loan gave the company additional time to meet that goal, pushing the deadline out to 2020.
Ingeteam added 40 jobs in 2014 and another 50 in 2015. Combined with the 2016 job growth, Ingeteam has nearly reached its 2017 jobs requirement of 190 already. Aitor Sotes, Ingeteam Inc. chief executive officer, said it is hard to say exactly how many jobs the company will add this year.
“We are planning to grow and to have a positive year. How many more employees will we need? It’s hard to know, right now. But we are definitely growing,” he said.
Sotes said increased demand for wind generators has led to the additional hiring.
“The wind and solar markets have grown since we first moved here,” Sotes said, noting the cost of wind energy is down 66 percent over the past six years, making the technology more competitive. He also said the approval of federal production tax credits provided stability to the market.
The hiring has largely been concentrated in Ingeteam’s generators business. Sotes said the 137,000-square-foot facility is essentially split into two plants. In 2014, the company told the Department of Revenue there was approximately 50,000 square feet of excess manufacturing space. While the generators plant is currently working two to three shifts, Sotes said the power conversion plant still has excess space.
Ingeteam successfully appealed the value of its property in 2014, dropping the value by almost $270,000 to $7,172,500. The company cited the buildings L-shaped design, higher than normal ceilings, overbuilt floors with concrete pits and in-floor rails as some of the reasons the assessment should be lowered. It also cited the fact the facility does not have perimeter fencing and its proximity to Miller Park means people try to park in the Ingeteam parking lot.
The Department of Revenue documents indicate the building was designed for 130 cubicles but only 30 were occupied in 2014.
“Most of our new hires have come to strengthen our manufacturing capabilities, so most of them are part of our production team. With their growth we have increased the cubicle occupancy to 50 people approximately,” Sotes said.
The original loan agreement called for Ingeteam to reach 275 jobs by 2015, but the company now has until 2020. Sotes said reaching that figure will mainly depend on an increase in demand for the company’s solar products.
“We are very excited with the response that we are getting from our customers in this sector, which makes me believe that it will have a direct impact in our plans for growth,” Sotes said, although he cautioned “any drastic regulation changes could slow down the projected growth plan.”
Sotes also said having a presence in Milwaukee has given the company more exposure in the U.S. markets for marine, mining and oil and gas, all of which Ingeteam also makes products for.