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HUDSON — Brandt Group of Companies is now in business in McLean County.

The Canadian agricultural manufacturer has started making grain-conveying and grain-handling equipment with 75 employees at 19500 N. 1425 East Road in rural Hudson after spending the last few months preparing the plant, Brandt President Shaun Semple told The Pantagraph by phone Tuesday.

"We took two products to get the initial management team up and running," said Semple. "Our hope is to be at 150 (employees) by the end of the first year of production. ... We could get up to 250 or 300 by the end of the second year. There's a lot of things that have to happen to make it work."

That hiring schedule would put Brandt well above targets the company needs to meet to receive property tax abatements from local taxing bodies over the next decade. The company also is required to work with McLean County Unit 5 and Heartland Community College in such areas as job-training programs, but Semple said that hasn't yet begun.

Semple said the company also is satisfying a requirement that employees be paid more than the average wage for a similar worker in the Bloomington metro area, as determined by federal statistics. He encouraged prospective employees to continue applying at brandtjobs.com.

The plant, near Interstate 39 just north of Normal, is currently making grain augers and belt conveyors — an expected 250 augers in the next two months and at least 500 conveyors by October, Hans Rasmussen, Brandt's northeast sales manager, said during a tour on Tuesday.

Painting and welding operations are up and running, and welders are especially needed.

"If the quality is good, we'll starting rolling in one product, and another, once we get past the first six months of production," Semple said.

Semple said Brandt also is investing in the plant, including a warehouse expansion to the north that will let the company consolidate storage currently in other locations, including Kansas City. The location will become Brandt's central warehouse as well as a manufacturing plant.

"We also want to do a lot more of our metal processing at the factory," said Semple. "Today a lot of that is done in Chicago, but we'd like to do it in-house in Bloomington."

The company has started to embrace the community, Semple said, though most of its efforts have been focused on the plant. Brandt is advertising on the exterior of Grossinger Motors Arena, and the company has purchased box seats for arena events, including Bloomington Thunder hockey games.

"We're big hockey fans, being from Canada," said Semple with a laugh. He also owns the Western Hockey League's Regina Pats franchise, which is based in Brandt's hometown of Regina, Saskatchewan.

"We noticed the local team had paid tribute to the Humboldt Broncos tragedy," he continued, referring to the April 6 crash of a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team bus that killed 16. "The hockey community is very connected around the world, from Bloomington to Humboldt."

The company is in line to receive a total of five years of future property tax abatements worth at least $637,000 in addition to $1.1 million in state income tax credits. Officials said last fall they hoped to eventually employ 500 at the plant.

Contact Derek Beigh at (309) 820-3234. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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Normal and McLean County Reporter

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