Rihm CEO Kari Rihm in a 2017 photo at the former St. Paul truck hub.
Rihm Kenworth, one of the biggest Kenworth truck dealers in America, has reopened at new sales-and-service facilities in South St. Paul and Coon Rapids.
The Rihm family-owned dealership, which operates 21 locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin, decided last year to move from its land-constrained headquarters operation in St. Paul’s Midway district, near Cleveland and University avenues.
J.B. Rihm, an executive of the firm, said, “There wasn’t sufficient acreage of industrial-zoned land that we needed that was accessible to truck routes,” and that the 1930s-vintage St. Paul facility was too small for today’s much larger trucks and operations.
Moreover, the Midway district, bisected by University Avenue and railroad tracks, has evolved from an industrial area, boasting many truck-and-car operations, to housing and light-commercial over the last generation. And the University Avenue light rail line made it even tougher for trucks to get in and out of Rihm operations.
“The industrial land in St. Paul is shrinking,” Rihm said.
The company sold its two St. Paul parcels to commercial intererests for $2.8 million and has invested $28 million in the new, larger in Coon Rapids and South St. Paul, now the headquarters for a company that has grown by several dozen to 330 employees over the last year.
St. Paul lost about 80 Rihm jobs that averaged about $70,000 and a beginning wage of $17 an hour.
CEO Kari Rihm said the company had no choice but to leave if it wanted to grow.
Kenworth had pushed it for years to build closer to major interstate highways that bypass the city and on more acreage with bigger facilities that could accommodate large trucks used for interstate hauling.
“We are a one-stop shop [for sales] service and parts,” Kari Rihm said. “We’ve built our new offices with our people in mind and the facilities help us improve our service and offerings for our customers throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.”
The new facilities include much-larger work bays and showers for truckers.