October 7, 2009
New book distribution facility will bring 26 new jobs
Racine took another small bite out of its 16.2% unemployment rate today, with the announcement of a new book distribution facility that will add at least 26 jobs to the city's workforce.
Jerry Bloom, president of Treasures Media, which operates a Christian book store and distribution facility now located in 50,000 sq. ft. of rented space on Durand Avenue in the Badger Plaza strip mall, first came before the Redevelopment Authority this afternoon, and then -- after getting unanimous approval there -- before a press conference in the mayor's office to show off plans for an 80,000 sq. ft. facility to be built in the Southside Industrial Park, the former Jacobsen-Textron property.
Treasures is the largest discount Christian book dealer in the country, according to Bloom, selling "hundreds of thousands of books per month" to wholesalers, retailers and online to consumers. The company has about 26 employees -- Bloom said it is growing so fast he can't keep track of the exact number -- but expects to double that in three years.
The distribution warehouse will be built with "green" technology -- perhaps with solar panels for electricity -- and the expectation that it may expand to 130,00 sq. ft. or more in years to come.
It will be located on 5.4 acres in the northern portion of the industrial park, along Memorial Drive. Although the city "normally" charges $35,000 an acre for such space, according to City Development Director Brian O'Connell, in this instance the land is being given free to Treasures -- one-tenth of the "forgivable mortgage" being forgiven for each year of the ten-year term -- and the company will only have access to as much space is needed now for the first phase.
Mayor John Dickert explained that the city would still earn "incremental" money, through taxes on the new building, and would have complete "clawback" provisions if the company did not live up to its side of the bargain by producing and maintaining the number of new jobs specified.
Bloom said the jobs would pay anywhere from $8 up. "The sky's the limit," he said. Under the agreement with the city, O'Connell said, Treasures "will give preference to Racine residents when filling positions." The jobs fit well with the "blue collar skill set where we have the highest unemployment."
At the press conference -- with almost enough Aldermen present for a quorum -- Dickert said the city is "breaking the cycle. This is a great day for Racine," he said, also noting the 28 new jobs announced last week when A&E said it would consolidate its Texas operations here.
"People tell us every day, where are the jobs, where are the jobs?" Dickert said. "Well, the jobs are coming."
County Executive Bill McReynolds said, "Having a project so close to the area of high unemployment in the city is great news."
Bloom, who bought a small retail store in Kenosha in 2002 before expanding and moving to Racine, right, almost four years ago, said "We're bringing hope to the city." Noting his company's rapid growth -- 40% per year -- he said, "The only thing holding us back is space." He hopes to break ground on the new warehouse in March, and complete it by October. Construction will be by Bukacek Construction Inc., and is expected to cost $3- to $4 million.
The company has a Manhattan sales office, and both retail and wholesale websites. It is expected to keep its retail store open at 4103 Durand Avenue, adjacent to the new AJ Wright clothing store.