Grainger still working through divesture of brands

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Friday, January 27, 2012
— Grainger officials said Thursday it's premature to speculate on employment levels after the company sells a set of specialty brands now operating out of their Janesville and Madison facilities.

The Lake Forest, Ill.-based Grainger said last year it planned to sell some of its specialty brands to focus more closely on Grainger's core offerings and distribution capabilities.

That process has been going on for months, said Kelly France, a Grainger spokeswoman. The company hasn't finalized a sale or announced a buyer.

The specific brands Grainger plans to sell are:

-- Gempler's, serving those who work outdoors.

-- Ben Meadows, serving forestry professionals.

-- McFeely's, serving professional woodworkers.

-- Rand, serving facility and warehouse professionals.

-- Professional Equipment, Construction Book Express, serving inspection, electrical, HVAC, engineering and building professionals

France said local management updates employees every five or six weeks. Rumors circulating out of those "town hall" meetings are just that, she said.

"Anything about numbers of people impacted is pure speculation," she said. "We're continuing to work through the process."

In Janesville, Grainger employs about 800 people, France said.

In 2010, the city of Janesville made a forgivable loan of $227,500 to Grainger with the understanding that the company would sequentially add jobs over a three-year period that would result in a total of 130 new positions.

Vic Grassman, Janesville's economic development director, said that at the end of the first year of the agreement—May 31, 2011—Grainger's local employment was 810, one short of the 811 required in the agreement. Grassman said being one job short was satisfactory.

Grassman said he would survey the company again this May, which would be the conclusion of the second year of the agreement. At that point, he said, Grainger's local employment must total 873 or it could be considered in default of the city loan.

Last updated: 7:14 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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