Company: Weinbrenner Shoe Company Inc.
Products: Weinbrenner Shoe Company is an employee-owned boot and shoe manufacturer established in 1892 and headquartered in Merrill. It is the largest manufacturer of “Made in USA” footwear. The company’s current collection of footwear includes styles from its Thorogood WORK, UNIFORM and FIRE, Wood ‘n Stream OUTDOOR and Shoe-In OVERSHOE brands.
Locations: In addition to its Merrill site, Weinbrenner has a manufacturing plant in Marshfield; both production sites are managed in partnership with members of local labor unions.
Wisconsin expansion: Weinbrenner is expanding its operations into an abandoned industrial site with help from the City of Merrill and WEDC. The 14.2-acre property, once a window-and-door firm and later an alfalfa processing operation, has been vacant since 2017. Weinbrenner purchased the property from the Merrill Area Development Corporation for $300,000 in 2021. A 142,000-square-foot building will house manufacturing, and a 17,000-square-foot building will be used for storage. Renovations include new offices and employee break areas, as well as adding production lines and installing a roof that meets safety codes. Located adjacent to the company’s existing facility, the renovated property will be an extension of Weinbrenner’s Merrill operations. The company needed to scale up its operations to help meet demand, which rose 54% in 2021, a trend the company expects to continue. “In the last five years, we’ve invested a lot in marketing to tell people what a great shoe we make here in Wisconsin,” said Weinbrenner President Jeff Burns. “We take a lot of pride in making the best footwear in the world.”
Missy Hughes, WEDC secretary and CEO, said the grant will help enrich the legacy built by Weinbrenner Shoe. “It’s great to see Weinbrenner, which has deep roots in the Merrill community, continuing to invest in Wisconsin and its workers,” Hughes said. “This project will benefit Merrill on many levels, which is why it makes sense for WEDC to invest in it.”
Wisconsin business environment benefits: WEDC is supporting the project with a $250,000 Idle Sites Redevelopment Grant, and the City of Merrill is contributing a $300,000 development incentive. Company officials say the expansion will create 50 new jobs and help it meet increased demand for its products.
Merrill City Administrator Dave Johnson said the WEDC grant was pivotal to making the project a reality, something that “increases the city’s tax base by turning a derelict property into a profitable one.”
“Having the help from both Merrill and WEDC definitely helped us complete this vision—to provide a building that the city of Merrill could be proud of, and our workers could be proud of,” said Burns.