Akron-based GOJO Industries is expanding and will take over the sprawling former Rubbermaid warehouse in Wooster.
The inventors of Purell hand sanitizer have agreed to lease 1.3 million square feet of space in Wooster at 1147 Akron Road. The facility will be used to expand manufacturing and distribution operations for GOJO, said Mark Lerner, president and chief operating officer.
“We’ve had good, consistent growth over time and we’re at the point now where we need additional brick and mortar to accommodate the kind of growth we’re experiencing and expect to experience in the future,” Lerner said in a phone interview.
Lerner stressed that GOJO remains committed to the Akron area, where it will keep its downtown headquarters and its Cuyahoga Falls Lippman Campus. No jobs will be lost due to the expansion, and GOJO estimates 30 to 50 new jobs at the GOJO Wooster Campus by the end of the year with 240 new jobs there as operations continue to expand.
GOJO will manufacture and warehouse at the new facility. It is also expanding by doing its own injection and blow molding for Purell’s dispensers and pumps, which currently are outsourced to other companies, Lerner said. There will be some duplication of product manufacturing at the Falls and Wooster campuses, with main production remaining in the Falls.
Lerner declined to disclose how much GOJO is investing in equipment and renovations in Wooster, or the length of the lease, other than saying it was long-term.
GOJO employs 2,000 worldwide with the majority in Akron and Cuyahoga Falls, including 600 at its downtown headquarters, he said.
The company will take six months to a year to get the facility into shape, Lerner said.
“Getting a facility like that will give us the kind of elbow room from a brick-and-mortar perspective that’s necessary to continue to grow and propel our purpose forward,” he said.
One of the first things the company will do is consolidate inventory, he said. GOJO has run out of room at its Falls warehouse and has been storing products at public facilities around Northeast Ohio, he said.
The company had considered sites throughout Summit County and Northeast Ohio, Lerner said. But there are limited spaces that were large enough for GOJO’s needs. The company had been considering a facility in Brecksville, but determined it was not a viable option. Earlier this year, the company said it was deciding between space in Wooster and Cuyahoga Heights.
GOJO has a history of repurposing buildings instead of building new (it has only built its warehouse facility in the Falls), Lerner said.
“I think that speaks to our commitment to sustainability,” he said. “We like repurposing facilities so that they don’t become rubble or eyesores.”
Wooster Mayor Bob Breneman said Thursday that GOJO will seek an Ohio Job Creation Tax Credit for the facility.
Lerner said the company has been working with the city and state for support via training and tax credits.
Ohio’s nine-member Tax Credit Authority last year approved a credit for the company’s then-proposed expansion into Brecksville. At the time, GOJO said it planned to invest $11.9 million in a facility there that initially would employ 37 people.
The estimated value of this tax credit was $113,896 over six years.
The Ohio Tax Authority next meets Monday. An agenda was not available Thursday afternoon.
Breneman said Wooster will offer a 50 percent credit on income taxes for six years. He estimated that credit to be worth $510,000.
He said he is happy that GOJO is taking over such a huge building that largely has sat empty.
The facility was Rubbermaid’s former Wooster distribution center, which closed in 2013 and — with the exception of a retail store downtown — ended the company’s long-standing relationship with the town where it was founded.
“This is the best news we’ve had here in town, and we’re so excited,” said Breneman, the mayor since 2008. He said the city has struggled since Rubbermaid manufacturing left in 2004.
JobsOhio President and Chief Investment Officer John Minor said in a news release: “GOJO is the leading global producer and marketer of skin health and hygiene solutions for away-from-home, and we are delighted that more than 240 Ohioans will be producing and distributing its world-famous products.”
Staff writer Katie Byard contributed to this report. Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or firstname.lastname@example.org.