They seemingly sprout overnight from former bean, cabbage and cornfields: Huge distribution centers, feeding an ever increasing parade of semi tractor trailers.
The I-94 corridor that links Chicago and Milwaukee is attracting a wide array of companies to Kenosha and Racine counties. It has attracted food processors and distributors, manufacturers of small technology, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment and supplies.
And growth in those industries has also spurred related growth in the logistics, trucking and distribution industries.
Also adding to the mix is the continuing shift in consumer shopping to online platforms, and the demands for fast delivery. It’s requiring companies to increase their regional warehouse space and distribution centers to transfer and store these deliveries.
Recent upgrades to Interstate 94 also have greatly helped the logistics industry, providing a smoother transition for companies that move to Wisconsin. Many of those companies migrated across the border from Illinois locations, and some from as far away as Arkansas, North Carolina and Ohio.
Todd Battle, president of the Kenosha Area Business Alliance, said major firms have large important distribution hubs in the Kenosha County, including Amazon, Meijer, Gordon Food Service, Associated Wholesale Grocers, Uline and Ariens Co., a snow blower manufacturer.
Others include Pfizer, Fresenius Kabi, Ta Chen, Yamaha, Volkswagen, Rust-oleum, SC Johnson, EMCO Chemical Distributors, Geneva Supply and Kroger, which is building an automated fulfillment warehouse in Pleasant Prairie.
James Hyland, company spokesman for Cincinnati-based Kroger, said the Pleasant Prairie facility is on track to open in the first quarter of 2022. Regionally, it will service the Roundy’s supermarkets: Mariano’s, Pick ‘n Save and Metro Market.
“Overall, these developments have had a positive impact on Kenosha County,” Battle said. “They have generated significant real estate development and construction activity, new employment opportunities and have fueled growth throughout the county.
“So distribution, logistics and supply-chain oriented firms have become and will likely be an important part of the area’s economic makeup,” Battle said.
Warehousing, logistics and transportation are also growing segments in Racine County, according to Laura Million, deputy director of Racine County Economic Development Corp.
Amazon opened distribution facilities in Kenosha, Yorkville and Sturtevant in 2020. Goodwill Industries opened a warehouse in Yorkville. And Dayton Freight opened its Milwaukee Service Center in Sturtevant in May 2019 to take advantage of the access to I-94.
“Access to Chicago and Milwaukee, the broader transportation infrastructure, is important for businesses to connect with their suppliers and get their product to market,” Million said. “Proximity to I-94 also can be valuable in attracting workers who live in southeast Wisconsin and northern Illinois.”
Read more in the Kenosha News.