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SCJ plans world HQ investment, moving 175 Racine jobs

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RACINE COUNTY — SC Johnson Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson announced Thursday a $50 million to $80 million upgrade to several buildings on SCJ’s world headquarters campus at 1525 Howe St.

Johnson also announced plans to move 175 Racine SCJ jobs to downtown Chicago, and a new honor for his father, the late Sam Johnson.

He said the renovations to five to seven buildings on the headquarters campus’ west end will begin in the spring and be finished in about two years.

That imminent investment — following a recent $30 million restoration of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed research tower on the headquarters campus — was one leg of a three-part announcement Johnson made Thursday to The Journal Times and company employees.

Johnson also said SCJ will relocate about 175 jobs from Racine to downtown Chicago within the next 12 to 24 months. No jobs will be eliminated, he said.

SCJ currently employs about 2,250 people in the Racine area, company spokeswoman Kelly Semrau said.

The North American commercial team will move to Chicago, Johnson said, along with the media group and a few other smaller functions.

“We’re very committed to Racine,” Johnson said. “I hope the big investment we’re making in our Howe Street campus is indicative of our commitment to be in Racine.

“But … we do think opening up a Chicago office, and kind of opening up the opportunity to recruit and retain talent at a different location is really important for our future.”

The action will make SCJ a stronger company, he said, “and that’s good for Racine.”

Mayor John Dickert called the company’s plans to upgrade its Racine headquarters good news for the city and said the company’s plan to relocate jobs is a reminder that Racine exists in a regional economy.

In response to Johnson’s announcement about moving those jobs, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement that said in part, “From our talent to our transportation, SC Johnson sees the same fundamental strengths that so many other companies see in Chicago, which is why they are making this long-term investment here. I look forward to watching them continue to grow and create jobs in the City of Chicago.”

Johnson’s other announcement was that the former Diversey building at 8310 16th St., Mount Pleasant, which SCJ bought for $28 million, and its campus will become the Sam Johnson Campus in honor of his father. SCJ’s global category teams will move there in the spring to make way for the renovations on the main campus, he said.

SCJ bought the former Diversey building after Sealed Air Corp. bought Diversey in 2011 and later moved all 300 jobs from there to Charlotte, N.C.

Cohesive, connected

Over the decades, Semrau said, five to seven buildings on the SCJ headquarters campus were “cobbled together.” The renovations will make them look more cohesive, create new meeting spaces and upgrade technology to improve communications connectivity, she explained.

Semrau also said a conflict this year between SCJ and the Sturtevant Village Board, over a proposed extension of Willow Road, “was not the driver” of Johnson’s decision to open a downtown Chicago office for 175 company employees, “but it crossed his mind.”

At one point the Village Board planned to use eminent domain to take a piece of the company’s 43.5-acre parcel of land south of the Waxdale manufacturing plant for a Willow Road extension that had long been under discussion.

In late June the board dropped the idea of using eminent domain, and in late July it also canceled plans for the Willow Road northward extension.

But the Village Board also rejected SCJ’s offer to buy the Sturtevant 8.5-acre yard-waste facility near Waxdale for $200,000, or to build the village another on a different piece of land.

“I hope the big investment we’re making in our Howe Street campus is indicative of our commitment to be in Racine."

— SC Johnson Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson

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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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