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Briggs & Stratton McDonough plant to close

 

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent
 

  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 County.

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 company’s statement.

“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 affected employees.

  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 roof.

  “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.”

 

 

©Henry County Times, Inc.