190206_GENERAC

The 500,000-square-foot former John Deere facility at 2900 Beloit Ave. on Janesville’s south side will see new action as a distribution hub. Generac Power Systems announced Tuesday it plans to use the mammoth building as a distribution center.

JANESVILLE

Generac Power Systems plans to expand its distribution operations to Janesville in a big way.

Generac announced Tuesday in a news release that it plans to open a distribution center using the bulk of the 500,000-square-foot former John Deere facility at 2900 Beloit Ave.

When fully ramped up, likely by this spring, Generac’s Janesville Distribution Center will employ about 80 people, according to the release.

Generac is hiring now for distribution jobs, the company said.

The new distribution operation will consolidate smaller-scale operations at other locations, but the facility will add distribution capacity alongside the company’s other distribution outlets in Whitewater and Jefferson.

Generac makes backup power generators and prime power products along with engine-powered tools. The Janesville Distribution Center will be used to ship out new products and parts, the company said.

“When fully operational, this distribution center will support Generac’s growing business by serving as a critical hub to get backup power solutions to people when they need it,” said Shawn Fortune, vice president of Generac’s global supply chain.

A contractor for John Deere last occupied the Beloit Avenue facility but vacated in 2017. The building is owned by Milwaukee-area company Zilber Property Group. Zilber filed for a new occupancy permit for the building in October 2018, according to city records.

A manager for Zilber’s industrial property holdings did not immediately respond to a Gazette inquiry on details of the occupancy.

Gale Price, city economic development director, said he believes Generac is leasing the property.

It’s a development that apparently has been in the works for months, although Generac has been relatively quiet about the move until this week.

The Janesville Distribution Center opened in mid-October with a “small operating team,” Fortune said in an email to The Gazette. Generac’s goal is to have the facility fully staffed with material handlers and people in shipping and receiving by early May.

A billboard on Highway 11 adjacent to the facility advertises Generac is hiring in Whitewater and Janesville. Generac, which is based in Waukesha, did not formally announce the Janesville expansion until Tuesday.

Fortune said Generac is hosting “walk-in Wednesdays”—hiring events that are open to the public—from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Beloit Avenue location. The company holds similar recruitment events at its other locations.

Price said the city first learned of the expansion last summer, when Generac’s generator production was booming during a lively hurricane season.

He said the city had no financial involvement in Generac locating here.

Price said he was “pleasantly surprised” to learn a single company proposed to occupy the 500,000 square feet of warehouse space.

“It’s the right building and the right owner,” he said. “The landlord and the building are known commodities. And Janesville was the right location.”

Janesville has become a hub for distribution, with large-scale outlets such as Castle Metals and Dollar General setting up major warehousing and distribution centers here in the last three years.

Price and other officials have touted the city’s central location in the Midwest along Interstate 90/39—a major shipping corridor.

Price believes that although the area labor pool is slim, a new distribution facility should be able to compete.

He said state employment data indicate there are more than 4,000 more people working in Janesville than a decade ago.

“It either means that we have people in the labor pool longer, or we’re drawing people in from around the region. We think it’s the latter,” Price said. “We’re drawing from 40 miles out, easy.”

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