RIPON - Fresh off a major expansion started last year, Ripon's largest employer is looking to expand again.
Alliance Laundry Systems wants to add 150 new jobs with a 46 million dollar project. And it wants Fond du Lac County to help pay for it.
It's not a done deal yet, but it has people in Ripon excited.
Ken Bahr is taking a moment to enjoy the air outside his candy shop in downtown Ripon. And he's hopeful about the news that Alliance Laundry Systems, the world's largest commercial laundry machine maker could get a little bigger.
"Oh yes, more the merrier right?"
The company headquartered in the small town has been in talks with Fond du Lac County about an expansion for several months.
"You've got a legacy company that has been here for over 100 years is growing because they are innovators. They produce a product that is high quality, long lasting and actually does the job of washing and drying your clothes effectively," said Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corporation President Steve Jenkins.
And Jenkins should know. The head of Fond du Lac County's Economic Development agency has become something of a laundry industry expert over the last few years. In 2012, the county loaned a half-million dollars to Alliance Laundry Systems to complete a $25 million expansion to add 270 new jobs. Now the company wants to expand again, and is asking the county for a six million dollar loan.
And folks in Ripon say an expansion by the city's largest employer is good news for the downtown, hit hard by a lack of tourism in recent years.
"The more people that are working in our community, the more they spend in our community and all that rubs off," said Craig Tebon, Executive Director of Ripon Main Street Inc.
"If people move from the other areas to here and they shop downtown of course that is going to help us," said Bahr.
The company declined to comment, other than to say the plans are still preliminary. But Jenkins says optimism abounds for what the possible expansion could mean for the county.
"I believe it ranks 3rd in terms of private employment but soon it may be 2nd if things keep going the way they are going."
If Alliance Laundry creates one more job to meet the 270 job threshold, the original half-million dollar loan from the county will be forgiven.
Tuesday evening, the Fond du Lac County board approved the loan for the new project. Alliance now has seven years to repay the six million dollars.
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