One of the main suppliers of the boxes for the iconic Frango Mints is shifting a portion of its operations to Wisconsin, taking advantage of government incentives worth up to $1.6 million.
Colbert Packaging will relocate about 65 jobs from a facility in Lake Forest 25 miles north to Kenosha, Wis. The company plans to add another 40 to 45 jobs there over the next two years. President Jim Hamilton said the move allowed Colbert to keep the same skilled employees and easy interstate access while reducing taxes and real estate costs.
"Wisconsin rolled out the welcome mat," said President Jim Hamilton. "This state has no welcome mat. It's like, 'You're here. Good.'"
Colbert's main production plant, which employs about 145, will remain in Illinois. Another 125 work at a facility in Elkhart, Ind. It manufactures folding cartons, rigid setup boxes and paperboard specialty products for customers in 37 states and 12 countries, including Wrigley and AbbVie, generating $70 million in revenue last year.
The packaging company traces its roots back to Kroeck Paper Box, founded in 1892. It was one of the first companies to make heart-shaped boxes for Valentine's Day; it got out of the business in the 1970s when work either moved to China or customer's switched to plastic packaging. ("Plastic is our enemy," Hamilton jokes.) It also helped invent the packaging for the first birth control container in the 1960s.
Colbert is moving its flexographic packaging operation and warehouse—the fastest growing part of its business—to a 173,000-square foot building in suburban Kenosha. Since 2013 Amazon, ULINE and Meijer all have added new facilities in the county.
While Wisconsin offered incentives, Colbert faced the expiration last year of a useful Illinois tax credit Illinois that applied to the purchase of printing presses. A new press costs the company $3.5 to $5 million, Hamilton said, and the company would have had to pay sales tax on that purchase if it was made in Illinois.
Wisconsin's economic development arm has authorized up to $850,000 in state tax credits over the next three years, contingent upon hitting job creation and capital investment numbers. City and county officials are kicking in $750,000 in grants, driving the total package to a maximum of $1.6 million. A statement from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation says altogether the jobs created by Colbert's move, both directly and indirectly, "are expected to generate up to $1.5 million in state income tax revenue over a five-year period."