A German agricultural equipment manufacturer will open its first North American plant in St. Cloud, Minn., inside the old Donlin factory that folded last year.
"The question is, 'Why are we here? Why did we choose St. Cloud?' The answer is the same answer -- because of the people," explained Daniel Hansmeier, president of Geringhoff.
Company officials say the pool of skilled manufacturing workers and the available plant presented the right opportunity for them.
"We've started interviews already. In fact, we've started a North America-wide search for our director of manufacturing -- one of the more senior positions," said Joseph Jandrisch, of Gerninghoff North America. "Right now, we're accepting applications at Geringhoff.com for people -- be it welders or assemblers, draftsmen, engineers, information technology, human resources."
Mayor Dave Kleis says the $20 million Geringhoff plant will create 100 initial jobs, with the potential to expand to 500 jobs.
Jandrisch added that there is a strong possibility of expansion, especially as they introduce more models of harvesting equipment for farmers in North America.
The 132-year Ahlen, Germany-based manufacturer looked at 40 factories around the U.S. before picking a former door and lumber factory in the St. Cloud Airport Industrial Park. A real estate agent at Tuesday's announcement told FOX 9 the company has also purchased the adjacent five acres for future expansion.
Geringhoff makes precision corn harvesting heads that are mounted on the front of agricultural combines.
The state of Minnesota is giving Geringhoff a $500,000 loan to get started, and job experts say the new plant is an example of how established companies -- not start-up entrepreneurships -- are leading job grown in the post-recession economy.
"We're finding that midsized and larger companies are adding employment, and that's kind of leading us out of this recession, albeit very slowly," explained Mark Phillips, commissioner with the Department of Employment and Economic Development. "We're not seeing as much entrepreneurial activity because the financing is a bit more difficult to get right now."