The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) said Tuesday it has awarded an $800,000 loan to Artisans Inc. in a move that will ensure the apparel company will retain its operations in northern Wisconsin.

The loan will help enable Artisans’ employees to purchase the 54-year-old Rusk County company from Gordon and Bev Dukerschein, who are retiring, and operate the business under an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). Other companies had expressed an interest in purchasing Artisans from the Dukerscheins, but they offered no assurances the business would have remained at its current location in Glen Flora, a small village just east of Ladysmith, WEDC said in a news release.

With the commitment from WEDC and additional financing from the Dukerscheins, Artisans will retain its 90 existing employees and is expected to create 11 new jobs over the next three years as the company continues to grow.

“Without WEDC’s loan, Rusk County was facing the potential risk of losing a major employer,” said Michael Wright, chairman and CEO of the company. “ESOPs are one of the few structures that allow employees, especially in rural areas, to participate fully in the generation of wealth that can sustain communities.”

“Our employees now have the chance to secure a future in the community they love and support,” added Charlie O’Mahoney, president of Artisans. “We very much appreciate WEDC’s support and Rusk County’s efforts on our behalf.”

Read more: Artisans Inc. receives WEDC loan to help employees purchase company | Around the Region | businessnorth.com