A $24 million, 22,000-square-foot expansion of the John Deere Horicon Works in Horicon, Wis., will add 12 jobs. The project will add two large presses used to punch out steel parts and comes three years after a $43 million, 388,000-square-foot expansion project.
John Deere here employs more than 1,200 people. Some produce lawnmowers and snowblowers at the downtown plant, while Building 101 on the city’s southern edge is a hub of production for parts and assembly lines for side-by-side utility vehicles like the Gator used on farms, at ballparks, construction sites and by hunters and anglers.
“When you look at Horicon and the size of our town, Deere has an immense effect on it,” said Mayor Jim Grigg, who spent 24 years at Horicon Works as a manufacturing engineer before retiring in 2003. “The last two expansions have been great for the city. I’m looking forward to the next expansion.”
No plans have been announced but the company has room to grow and is using only 70 of its 143 acres for its south side operations that cover nearly 600,000 square feet and employ about 500 people. The downtown plant, its roots established in the 1800s, has 700 workers and consumes 800,000 square feet at the gateway to the Horicon Marsh, the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the country.
John Deere is the economic engine for this city of 3,655. It’s the biggest employer in Dodge County and draws workers from throughout the region. Starting wages can range from $16 to $18 per hour, but incentives can add 30 percent more to a paycheck.
Last year, voters in the Horicon School District approved a $26.5 million school referendum to create a single campus, build an elementary school and make improvements to the high school and middle school. That same year, John Deere Horicon Works employees donated more than $163,000 to the United Way of Dodge County.
“Everywhere you go, every school you go to and every church you visit, this community is based on the workers you see here at John Deere,” said Alex Hoekstra, a former Horicon Works employee who is now District 10 director for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and a former president of IAM Local 873, which represents Horicon Works employees. “They’ve really built and have sustained this community.”