Spectrum Brands said Thursday it came close to transferring its world headquarters and Remington operations to Florida.
But the company said it has now dropped those plans and instead will move from Madison's West Side to a new building in Middleton in late 2013.
The announcement was the first time Spectrum Brands, whose products include Rayovac, Remington, Cutter and Dingo, has disclosed any plans to move to Florida.
The new four-story, 210,000-square-foot building will sit on Deming Way, just west of the Beltline and north of Discovery Drive. It will cost about $25 million to build and will be owned by Livesey Co., owner John K. Livesey said. Spectrum Brands will have a 15-year lease.
Spectrum Brands chief executive officer Dave Lumley said the new building will be smaller but more energy efficient and economical. It will house the company's corporate headquarters, Rayovac and Remington operations and technology center, totaling more than 500 employees.
"I think it's great for the state of Wisconsin. We all realize there was a real possibility that they were moving out of state," Middleton Mayor Kurt Sonnentag said. He said Livesey will ask the Middleton City Council for tax incremental financing to help pay for public improvements.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin is out of town and unavailable for comment, spokeswoman Katie Crawley said. But she said Soglin has asked staff to research the difference in cost between the Madison and Middleton facilities. He also is seeking more information about the role of a $4 million forgivable state loan and how it might have influenced Spectrum's decision to move to Middleton, Crawley said.
In an interview Thursday, Lumley said that when Spectrum Brands bought the Russell Hobbs small appliance company in 2010, his plan was to combine it with the Remington division.
Moving Remington to Russell Hobbs' building in Miramar, Fla., would have been a "very low-cost alternative" and would have provided enough room to add corporate headquarters and administrative services later, he said. Only the Rayovac division would have stayed in Madison and moved to smaller quarters, resulting in a loss of 300 Madison jobs.
"We were extremely serious" about the move, Lumley said.
For at least the past year, Spectrum Brands has been exploring its options for space. Maintenance costs for the headquarters building at 601 Rayovac Drive have been "horrendous," Lumley said, and the tech center next door, at 630 Forward Drive, has been damaged by ice falling from the Channel 15 television tower.
"Ice literally bombs our tech center," he said, causing holes in the roof, broken windows and flooding in 2009.
A New York real estate group affiliated with financier Carl Icahn owns the property, and Spectrum Brands' lease expires at the end of 2013. So as negotiations continued on a new lease, Spectrum Brands hired a consultant to explore other sites, as well, Lumley said, but no available buildings in the Madison area were big enough.
Lumley said the $4 million forgivable state loan was critical in deciding to move Russell Hobbs staff to Madison instead. "We had to know whether this state was going to cooperate with us," he said.
Sixty to 70 Russell Hobbs jobs are shifting to Madison, and most will be new hires. More than 25 positions have yet to be filled.
In Wisconsin, Spectrum Brands also has battery manufacturing plants in Fennimore, with 320 employees, and Portage, with 200 employees, along with a small returns center in DeForest.
The company says it has an annual economic impact of more than $90 million in Wisconsin.
— State Journal reporter Dean Mosiman contributed to this report.