Companies Expanding to Richmond

By Mike Bennett

Companies that stay here and grow here are paramount to a strong economic future in Richmond and the surrounding area. The future here definitely appears brighter after recent expansion announcements by two companies with global reaches — Wolverine Worldwide (Stride Rite) and Berry Plastics. The expansions in Richmond, which include a collaboration of public and private investments, have the potentials of adding more than 230 jobs to the local economy by the end of 2017.

Wolverine’s major move to northwest Richmond was announced Dec. 11. It will combine operations there with the customer-service call center of Stride Rite. “We are consolidating all customer-service and consumer-relations functions there,” Wolverine spokeswoman Christi Cowdin told the MLive Website in Michigan, where the company is based. “Having all brands represented in one geography makes a lot of sense.” And Wolverine has a lot of shoe brands. The footwear giant recently acquired the company that owned Stride Rite, Sperry Top-Sider and Keds. Wolverine has its own lines, but also owns such worldwide shoe brands as Hush Puppies, Merrell and Saucony.

Wolverine’s expanded operation will be leased on two properties that are owned by the city of Richmond. Stride Rite now employs 130 at 4200 South A St., just south of the Richmond Mall. It’s anticipated that the Wolverine consolidation will result in 184 new full-time jobs in Richmond by 2017 that pay an average of more than $30,000 per year. The combined numbers of current and new employees would place Wolverine in the top 10 for jobs in Wayne County.

The Wolverine deal includes shared investments from the company and from public economic development efforts. They include:

  • $2,450,000 from the company for furniture, fixtures, computer and IT hardware.
  • $2.5 million from Richmond Certified Technology Park funds to retrofit both buildings and expand parking.
  • $300,000 from a grant by the EDC for property improvements, employee training and/or the purchase of fixtures, furniture and computer hardware.
  • Up to $1,100,000 in performance-based tax credits from the IEDC that are contingent on job creation.

EDC president Valerie Shaffer said in a news release that she’s delighted by the company commitment to growing here: “We’re thrilled to have such a large presence by a global, high performing company such as Wolverine Worldwide in Wayne County.”

A consolidation/expansion project by Berry Plastics in east Richmond is expected to bring an added 50 jobs here this year. Berry will be adding manufacturing and printing equipment for plastic products. The plant at 630 Commerce Road in Richmond specializes in producing packaging for food and printing for containers. The company was the 10th-ranked employer in Wayne County in 2012 with 246 employees, according to statistics collected by the EDC. Berry has 15,000 employees at 80 plants around the world. Berry is investing $31 million and bringing 330 production jobs to its four Indiana plants, including Richmond. It is based in Evansville. The IEDC awarded Berry $300,000 in job training and $2.35 million in tax credits over the next 10 years.