By Arthur Thomas
May 8, 2017 - It was with great fanfare that Komatsu Mining Corp. announced the rebranding of its Joy Global facilities, hosting employees, elected officials, media and executives from Japan today in a large tent at its production facility near Miller Park in Wisconsin.
Two large video boards showed clips of Joy, P&H and Montabert products in action. Music with reference after reference to blue, Komatsu’s corporate color, played as attendees arrived. When it came time for the official ribbon cutting, executives and elected officials donned white gloves to cut a large white banner with Komatsu’s name on it.
Gov. Scott Walker presented Tetsuji Ohashi, Komatsu president and chief executive officer, with a Wisconsin state flag, pointing out the state motto of “forward” is the same as the company’s state goal for the integration and referencing the symbols of manufacturing and mining on the flag.
“We couldn’t be more pleased to commit to keeping the headquarters of Komatsu Mining right here in Milwaukee,” said Jeffrey Dawes, Komatsu Mining Corp. CEO.
Komatsu closed on the $3.7 billion acquisition of Joy Global Inc. last month and had previously announced the rebranding and plans for maintaining its Milwaukee headquarters.
Dawes’ statement drew cheers from the event’s attendees, but even with all the excitement of the new brand and commitments to the area, it’s hard not to consider the circumstances of the mining industry and even the recent history of mining equipment acquisitions. Bucyrus International was riding high when Caterpillar acquired it in 2011. The company initially moved its global mining headquarters to Oak Creek, but the industry has gone through a sharp downturn and many former Bucyrus jobs are either eliminated or heading to Arizona.
In a press conference after the event, Dawes said there is little overlap between Komatsu’s product offerings and those from the acquired brands of Joy, P&H and Montabert. He added the company doesn’t have the Milwaukee facility’s capabilities for building large equipment.
“We didn’t buy this company to close it up,” he said. “There’s huge experience here, more than 100 years worth, we want to capitalize on that.”
Dawes said he has rented an apartment along the lake and will be based in Milwaukee along with the rest of the executive team. He acknowledged mergers generally produce anxiety and told employees during the ribbon cutting event everyone would need to be patient during times of uncertainty and ambiguity.
“We all must work together to get this right,” he said.
Dawes told reporters the integration would take anywhere from six months to three years.
“We’re going take our time and make sure we do it right, and it will be a collaborative process,” he said. “Whatever decisions we make will be sustainable in the long-term, so its difficult to say right now exactly what will be the impact here in Milwaukee, but certainly what we have here is extremely valuable and we want to leverage that.”
Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett both praised the company for making a commitment to the area and credited the Joy Global workforce in the area for tipping the scales.
“I think you made a very, very good business decision,” Barrett said. “They’re going to be a great benefit to your company for decades to come.”
Komatsu Mining currently has around 1,000 employees in the Milwaukee area spread across four facilities, including 300 hourly and indirect support positions for manufacturing. Caley Clinton, Komatsu Mining global advertising and PR manager, said with the integration process getting underway there are not any specific targets for new job growth in the area.
“In general there is a lot of excitement,” Clinton said. “It’s been a tough market and to have a company like Komatsu, such a well-known name, our employees have expressed that they’re very excited about the opportunity.”
Tetsuji Ohashi, Komatsu Ltd. president and CEO
Executive and elected officials at Komatsu Mining’s ribbon cutting
The Joy Global sign has been replaced