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MOUNT PLEASANT — InSinkErator showed off its new, $34 million headquarters building to a couple hundred guests Wednesday, a building the company says will help collaboration and innovation soar.

In January 2017, InSinkErator, then based at 4700 21st St., where it also manufactures food waste disposers, announced the new project to be built at 1250 International Drive, just off of Highway 20. The 87,000-square-foot building now houses nearly 175 engineers and professional staff.

ISE President Chad Severson said the new headquarters building — designed by Fox Architects of St. Louis and built by Kenosha-based Riley Construction — and 11.5-acre campus will help the company with employee retention and recruiting. It was built to qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification and to enhance human productivity with lots of natural lighting and walking paths.

The $34 million investment will be paired with a $29 million investment in the 21st Street plant to upgrade its efficiency and expand its output, said David Farr, chairman and CEO of St. Louis-based Emerson, InSinkErator’s parent company.

Farr, chairman of the National Association of Manufacturers, said about those investments, “It’s about growth in this business; it’s about growth in American industry. … I have a very strong interest in U.S. manufacturing. The idea that companies like Emerson are investing in communities like this, for expanding U.S. manufacturing, expanding innovation is very, very important.”

Considering InSinkErator’s 80-year history in Racine, Farr said, “We felt that, in the end it was a smart decision to make an investment in new headquarters and innovation center. But equally important to make a huge investment in the new manufacturing facility which is going to be built on the same (21st Street) site, renovated on the same site.” That project is underway and expected to be completed sometime next year.

Although for a few years InSinkErator did some manufacturing in China, Severson said, “We’re answering worldwide demand from here.”

Farr pointed out that InSinkErator doesn’t just make kitchen waste disposers. It also has systems that convert food waste into renewable energy, in one case, called Grind2Energy; and another that turns food waste into compostable material. It also makes hot-water dispenser systems.

Features, improvements

The new headquarters, gleaming with steel and glass, is a modern, state-of-the-art work environment designed to optimize productivity and attract and retain employees. It features natural light for every workstation. It houses collaborative and open — but quiet — office areas.

Severson said it puts engineers from three different locations into one.

The grounds have walking paths with outdoor seating and Wi-Fi so employees can choose to work outdoors.

The headquarters incorporates enhanced research capabilities, compared with the old site, including a hemi-anechoic chamber sound lab — a sound-testing chamber that eliminates noise contamination to test sound pressure, intensity and power of food waste disposers.

New 3D printing capabilities allow InSinkErator to rapidly produce prototypes. Jamie Hansche of the 3D printing area said the company can now produce in a day what previously would have taken months.

The grind test lab and kitchen will help engineers determine how to make disposers capable of grinding the toughest food waste that is part of diets around the world.

Green building

The new headquarters is also designed to achieve base certification in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. When designing the building, the architecture and construction teams focused on LEED categories such as energy usage, efficient systems, water use reduction, site activities and natural habitats, indoor environmental quality, proper management of construction and demolition waste.

To encourage employees in environmental responsibility, the parking lot offers four free charging stations for electric cars and preferential parking for hybrid vehicles.

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Michael "Mick" Burke covers business and the Village of Sturtevant. He is the proud father of two daughters and owner of a fantastic, although rug-chewing, German shepherd dog.

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