© 2024 WXPR
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

On Brink Of Closure, Prentice Manufacturer Now In Third Year Of Steady Production


Three years ago, the village of Prentice got terrible news.

The Caterpillar company planned to shut down a forestry equipment plant there, endangering the jobs of about 200 people.

But a Minnesota-based RITALKA stepped in and bought the plant, saving many of the jobs.

“We know that in a rural setting like Prentice, it’s not just the Prentice town.  It’s a 30-, 40-mile, 45-mile radius around Prentice that you draw from,” said CEO Kevin Wald.

The plant is running steadily with about 75 employees.

But it functions much differently now than a few years ago.

“We just announced at our Christmas party that this Christmas, for the first time since 1948, the Prentice facility will not have any forestry equipment being produced inside the walls of that facility,” Wald said.

Instead, it has transitioned to the manufacture of forklifts, excavators, and mining equipment.

“We’re pretty proud to be able to say that we can compete on the global market.  One of the reasons that we can compete on the global market is, frankly, the rural workforce.  They have a great attitude.  They show up wanting to work every day.  We can find ways to make it so that we can compete against Brazil and Vietnam and Korea and we do that,” Wald said.

He only wishes he had more people interested in working at the plant, saying he’d hire 30 people immediately if he could.

RITALKA makes heavy equipment to be branded and sold by other companies.  Prentice is one of its eight American locations.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
Up North Updates
* indicates required