Wacker Neuson plans to hire 200 employees and invest $10 million in a plant in Menomonee Falls due to a cooperation agreement with John Deere to produce excavators up to 9 tons
The companies announced their agreement in June, but gave no details of how it would affect Wacker Neuson’s US headquarters in Menomonee Falls. Gert Reichetseder, president and CEO of Wacker Neuson Americas, told the Milwaukee Business Journal about the company’s plans.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us when we want to grow faster,” Reichetseder said. “We think it’s a win-win for employees to become something big with a major partner.”
The two companies will work together to develop excavators, including battery-powered excavators, which will be manufactured by Wacker Neuson. Reichetseder said engineering work and installation of the new equipment at the Menomonee Falls plant will take two to three years before production begins.
The agreement is between Wacker Neuson, which is based in Munich, Germany, and John Deere Construction & Forestry Co, a subsidiary of Deere & Co. of Moline, Illinois.
The two companies have already worked together to produce Deere-branded excavators in China and Austria for the Asia-Pacific market, but those products are of a different design than the ones in question in the new agreement, Reichetseder said.
Wacker Neuson previously produced small excavators for Caterpillar Inc. at the Wacker Neuson plant in Linz, Austria, he said.
“Alliances are not unusual for us,” Reichetseder said.
Wacker Neuson will develop and produce mini and compact excavators weighing less than 5 tons in Menomonie Falls and Linz. The excavators will be distributed under the John Deere brand through the John Deere global dealer network.
A John Deere spokesman said Thursday that the company was not commenting yet.
The Menomonee Falls plant will not be expanded, Reichetseder said. He said the $10 million investment will go toward reconfiguring assembly lines to produce Deere-branded products and restarting a powder-coating facility that has been idle in recent years.
The Menomonee Falls complex at N92 W15000 Anthony Avenue has about 540,000 square feet.
Wacker Neuson will also need another 100,000 square feet or more for additional storage space, Reichetseder said. He said the facility will store components that will be used in the assembly of Deere excavators.
Reichetseder said Wacker Neuson is likely to rent storage space rather than invest in buying or building the facility.
The company already has a logistics facility in Germantown for existing business.
Reichetseder said Wacker Neuson plans to double its workforce from the current 200 people once it starts producing Deere excavators. He admitted that recruitment will be a challenge if the current hiring situation continues.
“It’s a big increase, it’s a positive thing,” he said. “It’s not easy these days, but I think we are attracting manpower.”
The starting wage is over $20 an hour plus benefits, Reichetseder said. Workers at the plant are represented by the United Steelworkers union.
Reichetseder said Wacker Neuson is already recruiting in an effort to meet demand for its existing product line in Menomonee Falls.
The products the company already produces in Menomonee Falls include: skid steer loaders, compact track loaders, general purpose track loaders, compaction rollers, generators, light towers, heaters and mobile generators.
Wacker Neuson was created through a merger in 2007 between Wacker Construction and Neuson Kramer Baumaschinen, also of Germany. Wacker Construction opened its US headquarters in Hartford in 1957 and moved to Menomonee Falls in 1986.
Since 1986, the company has renovated and expanded the complex in Menomonee Falls several times, most recently in 2012.