BRAINERD, Minn. — Fleet Farm announced Wednesday, July 10, it would be moving to new corporate headquarters in Wisconsin, affecting as many as 70 jobs in Brainerd.

The Fleet Farm Group LLC agreed to purchase a 192,000-square-foot office building in Appleton, Wis., with a goal of bringing six of its locations under one roof -- while remaining in Appleton.

In January of 2016, Mills Fleet Farm was sold to global investment firm KKR. In late 2015, Reuters reported buyout firm KKR & Co was in the lead to acquire Mills Fleet Farm for more than $1.2 billion, prevailing over other private equity firms in an auction for the privately held Mills Fleet.

Stewart C. Mills Sr. founded Mills Companies when he purchased the Lively Auto Company in Brainerd in 1922. Stewart Mills Sr., along with his sons, Henry Mills II and Stewart Mills Jr., founded Fleet Farm in 1955. The Lively Building in downtown Brainerd long served as the corporate headquarters for Mills Fleet Farm. In 1999, the company expanded and remodeled the Lively Building, which sits at the corner of Laurel and South Sixth streets, along with the then Mills Fleet Farm store in Baxter.

A plaque on the Lively Building Wednesday, June 10, in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
A plaque on the Lively Building Wednesday, June 10, in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

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In a news release, Secura Insurance, which is selling its office facility on South Memorial Drive in Appleton, reported it had a new owner for the building in the Fleet Farm Group.

The Fleet Farm Group plans to relocate its South Lynndale corporate headquarters of 45 years in Appleton to the Secura facility.

“As Secura continues to grow and moves to a different location, it creates an opportunity for another Fox Cities business to expand,” said Garth Wicinsky, Secura senior vice president and chief administrative officer in a news release, referring to the 18 communities along the Fox River and Lake Winnebago making up what is called the Fox Cities in east-central Wisconsin. “We’re excited for Fleet Farm to start their next chapter in this great location, and we feel they will continue to be an excellent corporate anchor in the City of Appleton and the neighborhood that has served Secura so well for more than 50 years.”

The decision to purchase the building as its corporate headquarters reflects Fleet Farm’s commitment to the Fox Valley area and the Midwest, the company reported, adding about 500 employees will occupy the facility, including as many as 70 jobs that will be transferred from Fleet Farm’s Brainerd location.

The exterior of the Lively Building Wednesday, June 10, in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
The exterior of the Lively Building Wednesday, June 10, in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The company reported Fleet Farm will begin moving after Jan. 1, 2020, and will have all operations consolidated in the location by the end of March.

“We looked at a lot of locations, including some in other cities and states, and the current Secura location is perfect,” said Derick Prelle, Fleet Farm’s CEO. “It allows us to stay in the Appleton area, and the Secura facility answers our needs. It is a perfect size for us, and it has been beautifully maintained.”

Secura, which has more than 550 independent insurance agencies in 12 states, plans to move associates to its new headquarters in the Village of Fox Crossing in October.

Fleet Farm has 43 stores across the upper Midwest, and three more opening in 2019 with more than 7,000 employees.

In an email to all Fleet Farm employees, CEO Prelle stated he was pleased and proud to announce the signing of the agreement to purchase the Secura headquarters building.

“In January of next year we will begin consolidating our support operations from six separate buildings, including those in Brainerd, Minnesota, and Innovation Court in Appleton, into this new facility. We expect this process will be complete by the end of March."