SC Johnson: Relocating 175 jobs to Chicago, spending up to $80M to renovate Racine headquarters

RACINE -- For the second straight day, an iconic company has announced it is moving jobs from Wisconsin to Illinois. Officials with SC Johnson announced on Thursday, November 5th it would be relocating 175 positions from Racine to Chicago within the next 12 months to two years.

SC Johnson

The affected jobs are in sales and marketing. And while these jobs are moving to Illinois, the company is also showing signs that it's committed to staying in Racine.

The news has some who live in Racine worried -- and it comes on the heels of news the Oscar Mayer plant in Madison is closing -- and layoff announcements from Joy Global and General Electric. The GE plant in Waukesha is closing as jobs are transferred to Canada.

"That would be a hardship on a lot of the families that couldn't move. They're well-established at Johnson," one Racine resident said.

The company tells FOX6 News: "By relocating these positions to Chicago, we believe we can reach an even broader world-class talent pool for the company. No jobs are being eliminated as part of this move."

Racine Mayor John Dickert

"The idea of the jobs relocating or moving down to Chicago just reminds us that we are a regional economy," said Racine Mayor John Dickert.

Mayor Dickert says the move will affect about 7% of SC Johnson's workforce in Racine. He hopes several employees will keep living in the city, but commute to Chicago.

"When you look at the fact that we're roughly a tenth of the cost of living down in Chicago, it may be worth it," said Dickert.

Racine just passed a $30,000 feasibility study on extending the Metra commuter rail up nine miles -- from Kenosha to Racine.

"If I can get that Metra extended, maybe some of those folks will stay here living here and taking the train back and forth," said Dickert.

SC Johnson

Kelly Semrau, senior VP of global corporate affairs, communication and sustainability for SC Johnson issued this statement: 

“SC Johnson announced today a $50 million to $80 million renovation to modernize its global headquarters campus in Racine. Construction will begin in spring 2016 and take approximately two years to complete.

This is in addition to SC Johnson’s $28 million purchase of the former Sealed Air building in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin earlier this year. The property will be renamed the Sam Johnson Campus in honor of SC Johnson’s fourth generation family leader. The building is 280,000 square feet. The company will begin moving teams onto the Sam Johnson Campus in spring 2016.

The company also announced it would be relocating 175 positions from Racine to Chicago within the next 12 months to two years.  No jobs are being eliminated as part of the move.  The move will give SC Johnson the opportunity to infuse the company with an even broader world-class talent base and diversify its business locations.  A location has not yet been determined for SC Johnson’s new office space in Chicago.

It’s important that we position the company for long-term success. Racine continues to be an important location for our global company.  Yet we operate more than ever in a global competitive environment and we have to expand our talent pool to nearby Chicago to remain competitive.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued the following statement about this move:

"Today’s announcement by S.C. Johnson is a vote of confidence in the City of Chicago. They are joining global corporations like Motorola Solutions, ConAgra Foods, Kraft Heinz and Oscar Mayer who have recently made the decision to grow and create jobs in Chicago. From our talent to our transportation, S.C. 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."

As for SC Johnson's future in Racine, the company also announced a $50 million to $80 million renovation to modernize its global headquarters campus in Racine.

Construction will begin in spring 2016 and is expected to take two years to complete.

SC Johnson

"I think it's really great. It establishes the fact that they are going to stay here and continue this to be the world headquarters," said Racine Alderman Jim Kaplan.

This news regarding SC Johnson comes after Kraft Heinz announced Wednesday an Oscar Mayer plant in Madison that has been around for nearly a century will close as part of business moves by the parent company.

1,200 employees work at the Madison plant, according to the Milwaukee Business Journal. Not all jobs are moving from Wisconsin to Chicago. Some of the work will transition to Chicago, but an estimated 1,000 people will lose their jobs.

Kraft Heinz announced Wednesday it will close seven plants in the U.S. and Canada, including the flagship Oscar Mayer plant in Madison.

Kraft Heinz senior vice president Michael Mullen says the company plans next year to move Oscar Mayer and its U.S. meats business unit from Madison to the company's co-headquarters in Chicago.

The impending closure of the Oscar Mayer plant in Madison is another blow to the manufacturing industry in Wisconsin.

Oscar Mayer

Joy Global this week informed officials with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development that it will lay off or eliminate 56 jobs.

The mining company plans to close its facility on Orchard Street in Milwaukee.

This is in addition to a temporary closure of the plant on National Avenue. Those layoffs involved 113 employees.

General Electric announced on September 28th that it plans to build a state-of-the-art “Brilliant Factory” in Canada with manufacturing capacity for multiple business lines including its Power & Water, Oil & Gas and Transportation groups. That move would bring an end to the manufacturing of orange gas engines in Waukesha -- a huge blow for the city of Waukesha and 350 workers at its GE Power & Water factory.

Quad/Graphics on Wednesday, November 4th announced two new plant closures in response to its weak third-quarter performance, which included a net loss of $552 million. We don't know yet whether those closures will affect workers in Milwaukee.