By Jack Weatherly
Kohler Engines, a manufacturer of industrial gasoline and diesel engines, announced Tuesday that it is expanding its Hattiesburg facility and adding 250 full-time jobs over the next two years.
It produces engines primarily for zero-turn radius mowers and residential lawn mowers. The company’s existing Hattiesburg operations currently employ 350 full-time workers in addition to temporary, seasonal employees hired during the company’s peak production season.
Kohler, which has operated in Hattiesburg for 20 years, will add the jobs as part of a realignment with the closing of a plant in Wisconsin, the company said in a news release.
The company said it is making a “significant investment” in the Hattiesburg facility, though it did not reveal to the Mississippi Business Journal how much that is.
The Mississippi Development Authority is providing a $2.6 million grant to relocate equipment and $300,000 for work-force training.
The county will provide a tax exemption valued at $16 million over 10 years on personal property, machinery, raw materials as well as a freeport warehouse waiver, Forrest County Board of Supervisors Attorney David Miller said in an interview with the Journal.
Also, Miller said the county and city reached a settlement with Kohler Tuesday morning over a government lawsuit over a contested 20-year deal in which the company sued local government for what amounted to $2 million in what the company said was a failure to grant exemptions for the last 10 years of the deal.
The county and city agreed Tuesday morning to compensate Kohler for 75 percent of that amount over 10 years, Miller said.
Kohler, which is best known for making toilets, faucets, sinks, showers and other kitchen and bathroom products, will lease an additional 300,000 square feet in a building in the Forrest County Industrial Park.
“This consolidation to our plant in Hattiesburg will help us serve our customers better by giving them a single source for all of our twin-cylinder gasoline engines,” Brian Melka, president of Kohler Engines, said in the release. “Our business continues to grow, and this development makes our operation even stronger and more capable of delighting our customers in the future,”
MDA Executive Director Glenn McCullough, Jr. said: “We salute the teamwork of our partners at the Area Development Partnership, the city of Hattiesburg and Forrest County, which, along with the MDA team, was instrumental in bringing hundreds of new career opportunities to the people of the Pine Belt region.”
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