Plant could move - After fire, Echo Lake Foods eyes partial move to Ohio

2013-05-31T17:54:00Z 2013-12-17T11:36:10Z Plant could move - After fire, Echo Lake Foods eyes partial move to OhioMICHAEL BURKE mburke@journaltimes.com Journal Times

RACINE COUNTY — After a devastating fire at Echo Lake Foods and a noise dispute at its Yorkville plant, the company’s general manager says this area may miss out on up to 100 jobs.

On Jan. 30 a fire broke out at the food production plant at 33102 S. Honey Lake Road. It grew to an eight-alarm blaze that destroyed about two-thirds of the plant, about 80,000 square feet, and displaced about 300 workers.

The massive fire also incinerated Echo Lake’s “egg-breaking” operation in which the whites and yolks of at least 2 million eggs daily are separated. Now company General Manager and Vice President Jerry Warntjes says he’s more likely to rebuild that operation in Ohio than here — partly because of a recent noise dispute at the expanded Yorkille plant at 2319 Highway U, the former Maple Leaf Farms. Echo Lake opened its food processing plant there in 2008 but has moved more production lines there since the fire.

“I think I’m leaning strongly toward Ohio for egg breaking,” Warntjes said Thursday. That operation would start with about 50 employees and likely grow to about 100, he said.

Warntjes also acknowledged there’d be a big cost savings in doing egg breaking, or separation, in Ohio or Indiana — another potential candidate — because both states are large egg producers. Ohio is wooing him with an incentive package that Wisconsin has so far not been able to match, he said.

Warntjes said he started to veer off the path of rebuilding the egg-breaking operation in Burlington during a May 13 Yorkville Town Board meeting. At the time, Echo Lake Foods was violating its conditional-use permit in Yorkville with its much-larger operation, officials said. It was also doing construction there without a building permit.

Clashes with neighbors

With the ramped-up Yorkville operation, Echo Lake began to clash with its neighbors. Three or four neighbors began complaining about noise such as the beeping of backing trucks and car alarms sounding at night.

Warntjes agreed to cap that operation at 125 employees, though he said the property could accommodate an operation of double that. Warntjes has voiced unhappiness about the employee limit, but County Executive Jim Ladwig said, “You can’t say, ‘I thought they would say no, so I didn’t ask.’”

After that Town Board meeting, Warntjes said, he called the State of Ohio and is now in talks about an incentive package to build the egg-separation operation there.

About violating Yorkville’s conditional-use restrictions, Warntjes’ response was that he made it clear to reporters and county officials after the fire that Echo Lake would move destroyed Burlington operations there.

The violations were no small matter, Ladwig pointed out; Echo Lake was permitted five truck deliveries daily and was up to 25, at all hours.

“Three neighbors complaining doesn’t dictate what any business is going to be required to do,” Ladwig commented. “But you can’t say you’re going to have five trucks a day, and have 25 backing up.”

Echo Lake has since built new docks farther from nearby homes and agreed to certain hours restrictions on deliveries.

“By no means are we looking to chase them out,” Ladwig said, “... but there’s a responsibility with growth.”

Warntjes noted Racine County code has a subjective definition of noise which hinges on the word “objectionable.”

“If it’s deemed to be objectionable, then I’m in violation,” he said.

Balance

Yorkville Town Chairman Peter Hansen said about the Echo Lake operation, “I certainly hope (Warntjes) continues that business there. It’s zoned industrial, and that’s an appropriate use of that property.”

“It’s a balance I hope we can all work out,” Hansen said. “If he does those things (contained in the revised conditional-use permit), I don’t see why there would be a problem.”

Regardless of where Echo Lakes rebuilds its egg-separation operation, Warntjes said it will:

- In phase one, replace the 80,000 square feet of plant the fire destroyed, in Burlington, but without the egg-separation business. Instead, it will have a large baking operation for products such as waffles, French toast and breads. The net job loss when that is up and running in about a year will be about 100, Warntjes said.

- There will likely be another addition in Burlington, the size to be determined, costing a similar amount to the first phase, about $25 million to $30 million. It would start with about 50 employees.

- The egg-separation operation, wherever it ends up, will also require 75,000-80,000 square feet.

Warntjes said he hopes to decide where to build that operation within 30 to 60 days.

Copyright 2015 Journal Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(12) Comments

  1. Happyhappy
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    Happyhappy - June 03, 2013 8:43 am
    Dave in UG. I agree!!! We all just want to come together as a community and solve some of these noise concerns, and other issues.
  2. activelyconcerned
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    activelyconcerned - June 02, 2013 6:32 pm
    Actually there are several workers I believe living in the houses to the south. So much for that comment. More people die every year from not plugging in their toaster correctly. Being from the "chiller" industry myself I guess you don't realize the restrictions on that industry. More farmers die or are injured every year toting those piggy back tanks with ammonia to fertilize their fields (bet you didn't know fertilizer could do that) by the way the uni bomber used fertilizer. Jumping into technical conversation you must come with ammunition to back up your claims.
  3. Dave in UG
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    Dave in UG - June 02, 2013 4:57 pm
    How quickly we forget... "At the time, Echo Lake Foods was violating its conditional-use permit in Yorkville with its much-larger operation, officials said. It was also doing construction there without a building permit." Remember less than 2 months ago, an industrial complex in Waco blew up, killing 14. Stupid government intrusion could have stopped that, but it would have driven business away! Regulations are there for reasons, not to harass businesses. Nobody thought fertilizer would kill anyone. Nobody thinks huge refrigeration chillers will either. Workers die all the time from them http://www.safteng.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2714:ammonia-refrigeration-fatality-chiller-valve&catid=49:chemical-process-safety-psmrmp&Itemid=294 BTW, my guess is none of the workers at the Yorkville plant actually live there.
  4. yorkville11
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    yorkville11 - June 01, 2013 11:00 pm
    We are not old ninnies peeping out of the curtains evey 5 minutes every time a squirrel farts, you would have to be very close to the squirrel, You would have to compare that noise to the noise we are hearing. We neighbors do not need to peep out of our curtains to hear the noise, it is constant, even with the windows closed.
  5. activelyconcerned
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    activelyconcerned - June 01, 2013 7:36 pm
    Wow you really have no clue. To all please feel free to do what I did. Walk down the road. By the way don't get hit by a tractors. Kick out the farmers now too? All the drama of keeping the growth hear. Ladwig or is it the anti working class "hey I'm okay with them but I am letting 3 sway the many.
  6. Seatweaver
    Report Abuse
    Seatweaver - June 01, 2013 6:13 pm
    So much for the fundraisers in the Burlington and Waterford areas to help the displaced workers, as well as the fundraiser by Michael's on Eagle Lake. The Mangement is now State shopping for the best deal in Corporate Welfare. Yorkville11 hits it right on the button, "it's all about oil!"
  7. bslechta
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    bslechta - June 01, 2013 2:57 pm
    this is what happens when u old grumpy women complain too much
  8. kevinsmom68
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    kevinsmom68 - June 01, 2013 12:03 pm
    you go tell that to the PEOPLE YOU ARE PUTTING OUT OF WORK.

    you are probably an old ninny who peeps out her curtains every 5 minutes every time a squirrel farts
  9. yorkville11
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    yorkville11 - June 01, 2013 8:37 am
    Everyone knows you have to go where the money is..
  10. yorkville11
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    yorkville11 - June 01, 2013 8:30 am
    We are not running this echolake out of yorkville, Since 2008, there has been no concern for all the noise, loud whinng,turbo exhaust fans, high pitched sirens,this is constant,tell me there have been no complaints from the Burlington plant. Back up alarms at night,semi trucks slam on the air breaks ,missing the driveway several times, in the middle of the night, There is a safety concern.Yes we were all here before echolake, This a good community, we like to see it stay this way, as for going ahead with out permits in place,This is all a safety issue, would you not agree ?We do not want a disaster here. If you are doing a business here, do it right , and by the rules.
  11. kevinsmom68
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    kevinsmom68 - May 31, 2013 11:24 pm
    limited to "five truck deliveries daily" ???!!!! what successful [even small] business can survive on such stupid restrictions!

    good job chasing away this employer! best of luck to echo lake foods. go someplace that really
    wants growth.

    enjoy being on welfare , yorkville workers! your government has spoken

  12. Joeboy5471
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    Joeboy5471 - May 31, 2013 11:14 pm
    Before it is all over, all the jobs and the plant will be somewhere else. There are insentives which will be provided by other locations in the nation that Burlington and the State could never match.
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