Whirlpool Corporation's $80 million investment in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph taking innovative approach to talent attraction in the region, retaining 400 jobs
Governor Gretchen Whitmer joined officials from Whirlpool Corporation, along with federal, state and local officials to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new multi-family housing development in downtown Benton Harbor on Tuesday, Aug. 3. Through a partnership with Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment LLC, Whirlpool Corporation plans to invest more than $20 million to construct the multi-family development in the city of Benton Harbor with the support of the Michigan Strategic Fund.
"We applaud Whirlpool Corporation's continued investment in southwest Michigan as we work to jumpstart our economy," said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. "This innovative approach to solving a critical workforce housing gap is a win for Whirlpool in attracting top talent, a win for the community, bringing increased density and revenue to small businesses in downtown Benton Harbor and a win for people who need and deserve quality, attainable housing in the place they live, work and play."
Whirlpool Corporation announced plans for the multi-family housing development in June following Michigan Strategic Fund approval of a Michigan Community Revitalization Program performance-based grant in the amount of $750,000 for the project and relevant road improvements.
"This innovative approach to solving a critical workforce housing gap is a win for Whirlpool in attracting top talent, a win for the community, bringing increased density and revenue to small businesses in downtown Benton Harbor and a win for people who need and deserve quality, attainable housing in the place they live, work and play."
"This project would not be possible without the collaboration of so many, including Mayor Muhammad and the City of Benton Harbor, the Benton Harbor Planning Commission, the MEDC and Cornerstone Alliance, and is a testament to what we can accomplish when we all work together to achieve our shared goals," said Whirlpool Corporation Chairman and CEO Marc Bitzer. "By working with our communities on projects such as this one, we can all benefit, and are all collectively more successful as a result."
The multi-family development will have 80 apartments and 120 parking spaces, which is anticipated to result in $22 million in total capital investment in the city of Benton Harbor. By coupling the investment in new housing units with the redevelopment and additional investment of $60 million in the company's Global Laundry and Dishwasher Technical Center across the Paw Paw River in St. Joseph, Whirlpool Corporation will be able to generate positive business impacts, including the ability to attract and retain needed talent while offering housing options. Through the combined projects, Whirlpool Corporation will also retain 400 full-time engineering, research and development, and administrative support positions, all of which average $140,000 in annual wages.
"This entire project began with a conversation I had with Whirlpool Chairman and CEO Marc Bitzer when he first approached me to discuss his plans to create a Racial Equality Pledge to increase Black representation among the workforce and in leadership positions at Whirlpool Corporation," said Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad. "At that time, I asked him to consider making this investment into the city of Benton Harbor to grow our city and create a place that welcomes all people to live in our community, including underrepresented minority colleagues who will be joining Whirlpool. This waterfront facility can be the magnet to attract a diverse set of residents, proud to call Benton Harbor home."
There has been strong local support for the project, and participants at the event walked across the pedestrian bridge joining the site in Benton Harbor to St. Joseph to symbolize the collaboration and unity between the communities around the combined Benton Harbor multi-family housing development and Whirlpool Technical Center projects. Cornerstone Alliance has coordinated the development and construction of the pedestrian bridge over the Paw Paw River to create better access to the Technical Center from between the two cities.
"This housing development is important for several reasons; not only for Benton Harbor and Whirlpool Corporation, but for Berrien County and the Southwest Michigan region as well," said President and CEO of Cornerstone Alliance Rob Cleveland. "It's about creating jobs, bringing more revenue into the community, and supporting a shared vision of providing better opportunities for everyone to live and work in this beautiful and vibrant part of the state."
The cities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph are engaged with the MEDC's Redevelopment Ready Communities program.
"We are proud to support innovative development models like the Benton Harbor multi-family housing development in our efforts to increase the availability of attainable workforce housing and create vibrant communities across the state," said Michele Wildman, Senior Vice President of Community Development at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, who attended the event. "We appreciate the efforts of our local partners in Southwest Michigan, including Cornerstone Alliance, to support this project, and will work with Whirlpool over the coming months and years to continue to strengthen and grow its presence in the state."