InSinkErator president Chad Severson says new HQ will model sustainability of products

Posted by Patrick Leary from Milwaukee Business Journal on November 7, 2018

InSinkErator president Chad Severson discussed his excitement Wednesday for the company’s new headquarters and how it plans to use the opening as a springboard to greater involvement in the rising community of Mount Pleasant.

After nearly two years of preparation, the garbage disposals and hot water dispensers manufacturer unveiled its new headquarters Wednesday.

In January 2017, InSinkErator submitted plans to the village of Mount Pleasant for a $24 million headquarters and lab facility, but later that year, parent company Emerson Electric Co. (NYSE: EMR) announced it would inject another $34 million into the project. The new 85,000-square-foot building, which the company moved into over the course of the last month, will house 175 engineers and professional staff.

Severson spoke with the Milwaukee Business Journal ahead of Wednesday’s grand opening ceremony.

What are you most looking forward to with the new headquarters?

“It’s a very modern, open design. There’s the latest state-of-the-art-type technology, and simple things like looking down a hallway and seeing whether a meeting room is available. A little kiosk will be lit green if it’s available, lit red if it’s occupied. It’s simply two keystrokes to reserve it. It sounds small, but when you’re in a business and you’re reserving rooms, it’s a big step forward for us.

“Another aspect that’s really exciting for us: we tout sustainability with our product. When we make a disposer, and it’s being utilized, it diverts food from going to landfills. That’s a good sustainability story. We felt like we needed to embody that with the building, and we did. It’s in the process of getting certified for LEED.

“There’s an energy and an excitement because, frankly, in our old building, even when we were under one roof, we couldn’t collaborate like we do here.”

How do you plan to utilize the lab space that was a part of the headquarters project?

“We were in a situation where even though we were under one roof, we had a lot of partitions. We had lab facilities in separate areas throughout that facility. For the first time ever, instead of five different rooms or locations, we’re in one location. Just the synergy of that is a pretty big deal.

“Then when you talk about technology, we have a hemi-anechoic chamber, basically a sound-proof room. The whole point is to make it super quiet such that we can actually understand where the noise could be coming from in the food-grinding process, and how we can mitigate that and make it quiet. That’s one of our goals. Kitchens are being designed such that the sink and the center island is really a center of conversation. We need to be all over how we can make it super quiet for our consumers.

“Other things in that lab include 3-D printing capability of a size that we couldn’t accommodate in our last facility. We were also able to bring our Grind2Energy business, which is a new business for us, into the same laboratory.”

You’re expanding in Mount Pleasant at an interesting time for the village, which also houses Foxconn’s new technology campus. How does InSinkErator fit into Mount Pleasant’s ascent?

“What occurred to us pretty early on is we need to get involved with workforce development in the area, because these changes are so substantial that business as usual won’t work.

“We got involved with Higher Expectations for Racine County. Its purpose is to get organized and aligned to develop a workforce such that when Racine County kids graduate, they’re ready for a job or ready for higher education. I joined their leadership table, which is the equivalent of their board. I’ve got to say, I’ve been on a number of service organizations’ boards, and what I can tell you about this one is it’s so cross functional.

“We’re so committed to that, that we’re committing $200,000 for the next five years to Higher Expectations, just for the reason that business as usual won’t work for Racine County. One way to do it is to get involved, and one way to do that is to drive the positive things that are happening on workforce development.”

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