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Source: Appleton Post-Crescent

Brillion, Wisconsin - Commercial power equipment maker Ariens Co. has announced a $3.8 million expansion and upgrade to its research and development center.

The project includes the addition of a geothermal heating and cooling system, the company said. Its upgrade to Plant 1 will include increased workstation capacity, a new employee "kaizen" learning center, a new foodservices area, new product development and testing labs, and a revamped main entrance.

The project is expected to be finished by July. Miron Construction Co. Inc. of Neenah is the general contractor and Performa Inc. of De Pere will be providing the architectural design.

"Our goal was to create a more efficient and cohesive work space and learning environment where we can have all the employees who design, build and support a given product line all working in proximity," Dan Ariens, company president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "This new physical structure will better support our Lean management philosophy."

A new geothermal heating and cooling system will replace a dated and inefficient 40-year-old boiler system in the building.

"When you approach business decisions with long-term thinking, geothermal is a simple choice," Ariens said. "The initial investment made sense for us because this system is far more sustainable than other options and meets our commitment of creating a green enterprise."

He said the building's previous HVAC equipment lasted 40 years.

"If we use 40 years as a benchmark and the investment in geothermal is recovered in 12 years, we are left with 28 years of nearly cost-free heating and cooling with far less environmental impact," Ariens said.

The geothermal system will be the second installation of its kind at an Ariens Co. facility. A new geothermal system was recently installed at the Ariens plant in Auburn, Neb.

Ariens Co. is a manufacturer of outdoor power equipment. It employs more than 1,400 people, with operations in Wisconsin, Nebraska, Indiana, Alabama, Michigan the United Kingdom and Australia.