Hattiesburg, Mississippi – On Tuesday, March 12, Governor Phil Bryant joined The Area Development Partnership, the City of Hattiesburg and Forrest County Board of Supervisors to announce Kohler’s expansion of its gasoline engine operations in Hattiesburg, with the addition of 250 new jobs.
Kohler Company is one of America’s oldest and largest privately held companies, and KOHLER Engines will now serve as Hattiesburg’s second largest industrial manufacturer. The company was initially recruited to Hattiesburg more than 20 years ago and has manufactured gasoline engines primarily for residential lawn mowers since that time.
“The Forrest County Industrial Park Commission, in partnership with Mississippi Power Company, developed the existing building in the 1990s with the intention of attracting a global manufacturer just like Kohler Company,” said Forrest County Board of Supervisors President David Hogan. “That investment has now proven even more fruitful with this announcement. We couldn’t be happier.”
A major economic development opportunity for the Pine Belt region, this announcement provides for KOHLER Engines’ consolidation of its North American operations from Kohler, Wisconsin into one facility in Hattiesburg. The facility will be located on W.L. Runnels Industrial Drive in the Forrest County Industrial Park. Every gasoline engine manufactured by KOHLER will be distributed globally – but will pass through Hattiesburg and Forrest County first.
“KOHLER has been a cornerstone of Hattiesburg’s industrial base for a long time,” said Mayor Toby Barker. “I am proud that we were able to work with the KOHLER team to move forward with this expansion and further enhance our position as an economic engine in the Gulf South.”
Many partners came to the table with the City of Hattiesburg and Forrest County to make KOHLER’s expansion project possible, including The Mississippi Development Authority, the Area Development Partnership and Pearl River Community College.
- KOHLER Engines will lease an additional 300,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space in a Class A industrial building owned by Bulk Industrial Group out of Kansas.
- KOHLER currently leases space in the same building for warehousing and operates a large manufacturing plant in another facility on J.M. Tatum Industrial Drive.
- Mississippi Department Authority will provide financial assistance for equipment relocation, workforce training and statutory tax incentives.
- Forrest County and the City of Hattiesburg have committed to abating non-educational ad valorem taxes for the first 10 years of operation, granting a 10-year freeport warehouse exemption and public infrastructure improvements associated with the roadway to the facility.
- The Mississippi Development Authority’s Mississippi Works Fund will provide for $300,000 in workforce training dollars in partnership with Pearl River Community College.
- KOHLER will invest more than $15 million in moving and upgrading equipment and retrofitting the space.
This announcement also came after the conclusion of pending litigation between the City, County and KOHLER. A settlement was signed on Tuesday morning in special called meetings with both the Hattiesburg City Council and Forrest County Board of Supervisors.
In 2014, a suit was filed over taxes to be paid under an inducement agreement initiated and signed in the 1990s. After the lower courts ruled against both the City and the County last summer, an appeal to the Supreme Court was filed.
When KOHLER, the City and the County saw the expansion of KOHLER Engines as a possibility, all parties worked together on an agreement that would provide for a positive outcome for taxpayers.
The details of the settlement include:
- The city and county will be responsible for 75% of the original amount sought after, this equates to $599,250 for Hattiesburg and $675,750 for Forrest County.
- These payments will be paid in annual installments over the course of 10 years and can come in the form of credits for what is owed by KOHLER in ad valorem taxes.
- No interest will accrue for either settlement sums.
Barker added, “Under the guidance of both the city’s attorney, Randy Pope, and David Miller, the county’s attorney, we believe this is the best-case scenario as it minimized the financial burden on the taxpayer and provided a way for this expansion to occur along with future opportunities.”
Had the city and county both pursued the appeal to the Supreme Court and lost, both entities would be held liable for more than $1.7 million in back taxes – with interest.
The expansion is slated to be completed over the next 12 months, KOHLER plans to begin filling its 250 positions immediately. The company will host a job fair on Tuesday, March 19 from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Lake Terrace Convention Center.
KOHLER’s existing operations currently employs 350 full-time workers. This agreement will bring on another 250 direct, full-time employees, bringing their total employment numbers to 600+.
Governor Phil Bryant
“The name KOHLER is synonymous with quality. The company is known around the world for its high-quality products, so it makes sense they would increase their engine manufacturing capabilities in Mississippi – home to the most talented, productive workforce found in the U.S.”
Brian Melka, President of KOHLER Engines.
“KOHLER Engines is proud of our 20-year relationship in Hattiesburg, and we appreciate the support of the community and the state of Mississippi. This consolidation to our plant in Hattiesburg will help us serve our customers better by giving them a single source for all of our twin-cylinder gasoline engines. Our business continues to grow, and this development makes our operation even stronger and more capable of delighting our customers in the future.”
Glenn McCullough, Jr., Executive Director of MS Development Authority
“The state of Mississippi values its partnership with KOHLER, whose employees in Hattiesburg take pride in quality craftsmanship, enabling the company to achieve its goals in Forrest County. We salute the teamwork of our partners at the Area Development Partnership, the city of Hattiesburg and Forrest County, which, along with the MDA team, was instrumental in bringing hundreds of new career opportunities to the people of the Pine Belt region.”
Chad Driskell, Chairman of the Board for the Area Development Partnership
“The ADP serves Greater Hattiesburg through its business recruitment, retention and expansion efforts. Kohler initially invested here 20 years ago and today the company has selected our region for another significant investment. Their decision speaks volumes about the company’s confidence in our workforce and pro-business operating environment. KOHLER Engines will soon employ hundreds of additional citizens in Greater Hattiesburg thanks to the hard work of our public and private partners.”
Mayor Barker dives into details of the deal and why it’s good for Hattiesburg:
Live Stream Video of the Announcement: