Birkey's moving its offices to Champaign
Good financial times for a local farm-implement company means bad news for Rantoul.
Birkey's Farm Store Inc., whose administrative office has been at 1120 Veterans Parkway in Rantoul for nearly two decades, will be leaving for a new office building in Champaign.
Chief Executive Officer Mike Hedge said the company ran out of room at its Rantoul facility, which it leases from the village.
"We've been contemplating the move and having dialogues for two, three years on and off and talked with the folks in the city," Hedge said. "We looked at alternatives here," but nothing was available to suit the company's needs.
"It's a lot less expensive to use an existing building than to build a new one."
Mayor Neal Williams said the village hates to see Birkey's go.
"We do understand that by doing so will benefit the organization," Williams said. "We wish them the best. They were a great customer of the village for a number of years."
He said the Rantoul facility is "a very nice building."
The company will be moving its administrative offices to 2102 W. Park Court near North Country Fair Drive in Champaign.
Hedge said the new site is about 9,500 square feet — much bigger than the Rantoul location.
"Size is the reason," Hedge said. "We've probably got double the office space (in Champaign). We've got a warehouse here. It would take extensive renovations to make it into an office."
Hedge said the move will likely take place in June.
About 25 people work at the Rantoul office. Hedge said about half that number are from the Mahomet-Champaign area and the rest from the Rantoul vicinity.
The building houses Birkey's accounting department, its IT department, human resources, marketing and parts ordering.
Hedge said the company is in the midst of a long-term lease for the Rantoul building with the village and is trying to sublease the property. He said a few people have looked at the property.
He said Birkey's built the warehouse portion of the property, which is on the northeast part of the former Chanute Air Force Base. If the company is not able to sublease the building, it would have to just walk away from it.
The company moved to the site in the mid-'90s, not long after the closure of the base in 1993, Hedge said.
As the company has prospered, it has added staff and run out of room in Rantoul.
"Our company has grown significantly in the last 12 years," Hedge said. "We're probably five times the size from what we were when we moved into this building. We are bursting at the seams from when we moved in here. The facility has been a good facility. I think it's one of the best facilities out on the base.
"It's really been tough as we've grown to try to find places to put everybody."
In addition to the administrative office, Birkey's operates 13 retail stores, all in Illinois except for one in Williamsport, Ind.
"The business keeps consolidating," Hedge said. "We've been in that mode for a number of years. Our business continues to grow. The ag economy is still very strong here."