By Monroe Roark
In an announcement that took
local officials by surprise, Briggs & Stratton said that it will be
closing its McDonough facility in the first quarter of 2015, a move
that signals the end of an era for business and industry in Henry
Briggs & Stratton will close
their plant in McDonough during the first quarter of 2015.
Photo by John Jackson
For about five decades the
20-acre site south of the Square was known as the home of Snapper, a
maker of lawn care equipment sold far and wide. Snapper was acquired
in 2002 by Simplicity Manufacturing, which was then acquired in 2004
by Milwaukee-based Briggs & Stratton.
McDonough Mayor Billy
Copeland broke the news on his Facebook page shortly after meeting
with senior Briggs & Stratton officials along with Henry County
Chamber of Commerce president David Gill.
“The end of the
Snapper/Briggs & Stratton era in our community is a sad change, but
I am confident that our overall business industry is strong, and we
will continue to move forward,” he wrote.
When contacted Monday
morning, Copeland reiterated his disappointment.
“It was a devastating day.
That was the economic engine in our community for sixty-plus years,”
he said. “It was painful for those folks, very painful. I said I
didn’t envy them having to go out and tell the employees.”
Last Thursday’s press release
from Briggs & Stratton stated simply that the company will close its
McDonough location and consolidate production at existing facilities
in Wisconsin and New York.
Starting in the 2016 lawn and
garden season, the company “will narrow its assortment of
lower-priced Snapper consumer lawn and garden equipment and
consolidate its products manufacturing facilities in order to
further reduce costs,” according to the release.
“The company will continue to
focus on premium residential products to customers through its
Snapper and Simplicity brands and commercial products through its
Snapper Pro and Ferris brands, it stated. “Production of pressure
washers, snow throwers and lawn tractors will move to its Wauwatosa,
Wisconsin manufacturing facility, and production of zero-turn
lawnmowers will be moved to its Munnsville, New York facility.”
According to Copeland’s
Facebook statement, the 400,000-square-foot plant is expected to be
remediated and sold for other use.
Right now the McDonough
facility manufactures pressure washers, snow throwers, zero-turn
lawn mowers and smaller lawn and garden tractors, according to the
“These changes will affect
approximately 475 employees over the course of the next several
months,” the release stated. “The company will provide assistance
programs, continued benefits and outplacement services to the
Copeland recalled that in
past years the Snapper facility employed 1,200-1,400 people. He
remembers when a foundry was the only building on that property
before Snapper came along in the mid-1950s, making improvements from
time to time. The current facility has nearly ten acres under one
“They’ve been such a great corporate citizen –
the Briggs & Stratton people as well as the predecessors,” said
Copeland. “It’s a hard blow. We’re trying to put a positive spin on
it. It was a decision they had to make.”