The City of Cleveland lost LeBron James but the City of Benton Harbor held on to its key ‘corporate player.’
“For Benton Harbor to lose Whirlpool could be compared to Cleveland losing LeBron,” said Marcus Muhammad, Mayor Pro Tem for Benton Harbor. “And we’re not in that type of position, where we’re prepared to do that.”
Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm was in Benton Harbor Tuesday as the state appeared to seal a deal that will have Whirlpool building a new $86 million office campus in Benton Harbor.
“Whirlpool is a global company and they could have chosen to go anywhere. You know that, right?” asked Governor Granholm. “They could have chosen to go to Chicago, they could have chosen to go to Atlanta, but what they did is stay right here.”
Last week, Whirlpool announced plans to build new offices in Benton Harbor. The plans were contingent on the approval of financial incentives from the state.
“Now let me say that because they have to be responsive to their shareholders, they can’t just make decisions out of love, although we know that they love this region. We had to partner with those who are here to make a good business case for them to make the decision to locate here, that’s partly what the state’s incentives today offer,” Granholm said.
On Tuesday, The Michigan Economic Development Authority approved tax credits valued at $19.4 million dollars for the Whirlpool project.
“This particular parcel is an area that used to be part of the St. Joseph River, was filled in, so it’s going to be deep pilings that will have to be constructed,” said Whirlpool Corporate Vice President Jeff Noel. “There are a lot of costs that go to building on this particular site (in Benton Harbor) compared to elsewhere.
The state tax credits were approved, despite the fact that Whirlpool does not promise to create any additional jobs through the project.
“We have not attached a job increase to this investment,” said Whirlpool Chairman and CEO Jeff Fettig. “But I would say, you know, judge, look at our track record. If we are successful as a company, which I expect us to be, if we are growing, not only in the United States but around the world, we will, over time, grow jobs in this community. Right now, we are limited by physical capacity to be able to do that.”
Whirlpool is also seeking financial incentives for the project from local governments.