LITCHFIELD — With the holidays coming up, Litchfield Mayor Keith Johnson said his community is thankful to get an early Christmas gift delivered during an official announcement Thursday that Doosan Bobcat is making a $26 million expansion that will triple the workforce and triple the physical size of the manufacturing plant located on the east side of Litchfield.
“It’s very exciting news for us,” said Johnson in a telephone interview. “It will change the dynamics of our town.”
City officials have been aware of the project for a couple months and construction has already started, but company officials were in Litchfield on Thursday to make the announcement official to employees and the community.
“You couldn’t get a better gift,” Johnson said. “We’re looking forward to the possibilities that this company can bring.”
Mike Ballweber, president of Doosan Bobcat North America based in West Fargo, North Dakota, said expansions like the one in Litchfield will help the company meet the future needs of Bobcat dealers and customers.
“We have enjoyed a longstanding relationship with the Litchfield community and appreciate the continued support of the folks there," said Ballweber, in a news release.
When the project is completed in September of 2020, the facility will be expanded to nearly 200,000 square feet, which will more than triple the size of the current footprint, according to the news release.
The project includes modernizing the existing production facility by adding new paint lines, a climate-controlled environment and assembly line upgrades. The Litchfield plant currently manufactures attachments for Doosan Bobcat loaders and excavators for the North American market.
Once it’s fully operational, the expanded facility is expected to triple its workforce, from the current 100 employees to an expected 300 full-time employees.
The size of the investment Doosan Bobcat is making sends a strong signal that the company intends to be in town for a long time, Johnson said. “We’re happy they picked our town for this expansion.”
Johnson said the expansion also means the town could expect an influx of new employees who may want to move there or commute to town, which he said will bring new economic, social and community service opportunities to Litchfield.
The Meeker County Economic Development Authority is looking to work with developers to construct new housing in and around Litchfield to meet the needs of new employees, said Lisa Graphenteen, a consultant who works for the EDA.
Graphenteen said the Doosan Bobcat expansion is being undertaken without any local or state subsidies or tax breaks.
Even though the EDA was not directly involved in nurturing the expansion project, she said it will be involved in responding to community needs and opportunities brought about by the expansion and the new jobs.
She said the new jobs will create needs for child care and housing, which had already been identified as top priority areas for the EDA throughout the county.
“This is a huge financial investment and a large number of jobs. It’s really exciting news for the community,” she said. “There’ll definitely be a lot of needs coming to the community in the next few years with this exciting development.”
The announcement about the Litchfield expansion coincides with the official opening this week of Doosan Bobcat’s nearly $2 million investment in a new Global Collaboration Center in downtown Minneapolis.
“These investments demonstrate our commitment to our presence in Minnesota, which is a major manufacturing hub and now a center for our global operations,” said Scott Park, chief executive officer and president of Doosan Bobcat.
“We are proud to continually expand our compact equipment line to help empower our customers to accomplish more,” Park said in the news release.
Recently, the company announced a $17 million investment in Gwinner, North Dakota, and an $11 million investment in Statesville, North Carolina, as part of the company’s long-term strategic growth initiatives in the compact equipment industry and its long-term commitment to employees and communities, he said.