HUDSON — A year in, Brandt Industries is making good on its promise to grow in McLean County.
The Canadian ag manufacturer has expanded to 90 employees at its plant at 19500 N. 1425 East Road in rural Hudson, just north of Normal; brought in two more products, for a total of four made there; and improved its manufacturing line and employee areas, all since production began in May.
Last week, Brandt showed off that progress for local officials who approved property tax abatements when the company bought the former Kongskilde Industries plant — demonstrating that Brandt is meeting hiring and capital investment benchmarks needed for those abatements to trigger.
"Both the construction at the plant, including improvements to both exterior and interior, and preparation for expanded workforce ... bodes well for their intentions," said McLean County Administrator Bill Wasson. "For a location that was otherwise anticipated to be closed, that's very positive."
The company is in line to receive a total of five years of property tax abatements worth at least $637,000, plus $1.1 million in state income tax credits. Brandt officials said they hope to eventually employ 500 at the plant.
Hans Rasmussen, who moved from Kongskilde to Brandt and is now sales manager for the northeast United States and eastern Canada, said officials are pleased with the plant's progress, but are still working to improve it as a production facility and a distribution hub for American sales.
The facility is now producing not only augers and grain belts, as it did when it opened, but drive-over grain decks and an additional type of belt, said Rasmussen. Brandt has beefed up the welding line to expand capacity.
"They will (take on additional products) as volume dictates," said Rasmussen.
Rasmussen said the remodeled employee area, including a locker room, restroom and breakroom, is "part of taking care of your employees, providing them a decent workplace."
The company also plans to clear out storage space on the plant's northeast side to add a parking lot near the door to that employee area this summer.
Elsewhere in the plant, Brandt hopes to expand its warehouse, which helps the company distribute parts nationwide. Rasmussen noted that area uses a mechanized picking system that could become automated.
The company also is hiring its own team of assemblers to put together Brandt products after shipping, rather than relying on third-party contractors.
"We're trying to train up those people and find the people for that. It involves a lot of travel, so it's not something everybody's interested in," Rasmussen said of the crew that will start with six workers. "We're expanding our dealer network, which will lead to additional sales, which will lead to additional work."
Brandt job listings are at brandt.ca/Careers/Job-Opportunities.
Brandt bought the former Kongskilde Industries plant in 2017 in a deal that included paying $2 million for the site, according to county records. The company also agreed to buy four adjacent parcels for possible expansion.
Normal City Manager Pam Reece, who visited the facility for the first time last week, said she's excited to see how it is shaping up.
"I really didn't know what to expect going out there and was incredibly impressed by their operation. It's a big facility, and the investment they've made in the space in just a year is incredible," she said. "The future looks very bright for them here."