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Irgens developing new Corporate Technology Center for A.O. Smith

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A.O. Smith Corp. announced Wednesday it is planning a new state-of-the-art Corporate Technology Center at its campus on northwest side of Milwaukee.

Milwaukee-based developer Irgens will develop the 42,700-square-foot, one-story building just south of company’s corporate headquarters, located at 11270 W. Park Place.

Rendering of the new research center.

A.O. Smith, which designs, manufactures and distributes water heaters for a global market, has signed a long-term lease with Irgens for the new building, which will be owned and managed by an Irgens affiliate.

Ajita Rajendra, A.O. Smith’s chairman and CEO, said the new building will be a showcase research center where customers, suppliers and government officials can visit.

“Research and innovation have been fundamental to A. O. Smith’s success for 143 years,” Rajendra said. “Over the last several years, we have increased the size of our CTC team by 40 percent as we’ve entered the global water treatment and air purification markets. This new facility will give our team the capabilities to maintain our leadership position in these rapidly growing industries.”

Groundbreaking on the new technology center is expected in August, pending city of Milwaukee approvals, with a completion date anticipated in late 2018.

The number of employees working at the center is unknown, but the work done at the location will include research and development of potable and hydronic water heating, water treatment and air purification.

A.O. Smith, has been leasing a 49,870-square-foot, 30-year-old building for its corporate technology center at 12100 W. Park Place. The lease is set to expire in November 2018 and the company will vacate the building.

Bill Bonifas, an executive vice president at CBRE, represented A.O. Smith in the company’s search for a new building.

A.O. Smith began as a Milwaukee machine shop making metal parts for baby carriages in 1874. The company evolved, entering the bicycle and automobile industries. In the 1970s, A.O. Smith opened its water heater division.

In 2011, the company refocused, and embarked on a strategy to become the world’s leading global technology company.

A.O. Smith has taken steps to grow its water technology business, including the 2011 acquisition of LochinvarCorp., a manufacturer of high-efficiency residential and commercial boilers, and last year’s acquisition of Aquasana Inc., a leading direct-to-consumer water treatment company.

A. O. Smith has maintained a corporate research team since the 1920s, and has occupied its current research facility on the city’s northwest side since 1984. The existing facility no longer fits the needs of the company, said senior vice president and chief technology officer Robert Heideman.

“When we moved to our current facility, A. O. Smith was made up of six operating units that were in a variety of industries,” Heideman said. “Not only is the company significantly different today than it was more than 30 years ago, the technologies are substantially different as well. The team is excited to have a new space to carry out our mission.”

Today, A.O. Smith is a $2.7 billion company with 20 manufacturing plants and 10 product engineering facilities around the world. The company employs approximately 15,500 people.

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