The Whirlpool Corporation unveiled its new $70 million state-of-the art office complex in Benton Harbor Monday.
Around 400 employees are currently working out of the facility, which is located off of Main Street. Another 800 will relocate there once the other buildings are complete. Work on the next phase begins this summer.
The building has a very "open concept," with no hard-wall offices.
The exterior walls of the building are windows, to let in as much natural light as possible.
Officials say the state-of-the-art design will make for a more efficient and inspiring work environment.
And the new complex, which is on 12-acres of land located at the entrance to the city, is inspiring other businesses to come to town
Marc Bitzer is President of North American Operations. He says they chose to invest in Benton Harbor because of its history there.
"No matter how global we are, we know where we came from, and our roots are here in southwest Michigan," Bitzer says.
Whirlpool's commitment to the city has caused other investors to take notice.
"Only with Whirlpool has my opportunity been realized," says Eric Christenson
Eric Christenson and his wife are partners in eight southwest Michigan Subway franchises. In May, he is opening up a Subway in the building directly across the street from Whirlpool's new complex. It's the first national franchise to come to the city in over 40 years.
"I'm very lucky to hopefully be a leader, a small part of a bigger picture,"
A bigger picture that will also include a new Chemical Bank branch which is under construction along Main Street.
And existing businesses are seeing an impact as well.
"It's been really good for business. Lunches have tripled in sales at least," says Luke Avery, a bartender at River's Edge Bar & Grill.
Benton Harbor City Mayor James Hightower spoke at today's ribbon-cutting ceremony and says that the city is seeing great changes that will impact residents and make them proud to call Benton Harbor home.
"Having the number one appliance manufacturer in the universe with your zip code, is great!”
But not everyone is happy about the new buildings. Starting in October the company laid off more than 100 workers locally and 5,000 employees worldwide. So many former employees don't agree with the company laying off people and then turning around and spending millions on new construction.
However, Whirlpool’s vice president of communications, Jeff Noel, says they had to make those tough decisions in order for the company to prosper.
He also says, "The investments we made in this facility are delivering an economic return for the company."
Former Whirlpool employees, who did not want to be identified, tell WSBT news another round of layoffs is expected in June. The same time Whirlpool is planning on starting construction on the next office building at the complex. The company will also spend millions to renovate their current headquarters located on M-63 in Benton Harbor. The work will also be sometime this summer.