Briggs & Stratton Corporation announced Thursday morning plans to consolidate production of its small vertical-shaft engines into its Poplar Bluff, Missouri facility. A news release from the company said this consolidation would result in the closure of the company's Murray facility by the fall of 2020 and is intended to align production capacity with current and expected future market needs.
"The market for small vertical-shaft engines has been relatively stable over the last several years but has not grown for various reasons, including a difficult housing market driven by the lack of affordable single-family homes in the United States," the release said. "Unlike other areas of Briggs & Stratton's business such as commercial engines and products which have seen double-digit growth, the residential walk-behind mower market, where the vast majority of these engines are used, has not rebounded to historical levels. Accordingly, the Company is taking action to right-size its footprint."
"Our residential engine business continues to be core to our company as we make progress on diversifying our business by growing our commercial presence," said Todd Teske, Chairman, President & CEO of Briggs & Stratton Corporation. "This production consolidation is important for the long-term health of this operation and will allow for better utilization of our assets by freeing up resources that we can use on growth areas within our company. Our team in Murray has done great things over the three decades since the plant was established. We are grateful for their work and the support we have received from the local community and Commonwealth of Kentucky."
Impacted employees will have the opportunity to relocate to another facility, the company said. The Poplar Bluff plant will be hiring to accommodate the increased production being added to that facility, in addition to the hiring taking place within the Company's commercial businesses.
The Company anticipates annualized pre-tax savings of $12 million to $14 million, with approximately $10 million recognized by fiscal year 2021. Total charges related to the consolidation are expected to total $30 million to $35 million over fiscal years 2020 and 2021.
Murray Calloway County Economic Development Corporation President Mark Manning released the following statement in response to the news:
"The Board of Murray Calloway Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC) deeply regrets the decision by Briggs & Stratton’s Board/Executive Management to close the Murray operation. The company, with over 3 decades of operations in Murray, has been a respected and generous member of the community and their absence will be a serious impact to our local and regional economy. Currently, there are about 600 full time positions that will be affected. While the majority of employees are from Calloway County, there are significant numbers from Graves, Marshall and Henry County TN as well. Sadly, the closure means lost wages in the tens of millions of dollars, which could lead to the need for local increased social services to help affected families.
"Working with the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and the Tennessee Valley Authority, The City of Murray as well as Calloway County and the MCEDC has worked diligently behind the scenes for months to try and forestall this decision. The incentive package put together to try and keep the plant open was an incredible team effort and constituted a substantial financial investment offered to the company. All partners from the Cabinet for Economic Development to the TVA, City and County did everything possible to contribute to the effort. Unfortunately, market conditions forced the company to make hard decisions to reduce their manufacturing footprint and the decision was made to close this plant. The decision is, unfortunately, irreversible.
"From this moment forward, all efforts will be concentrated on recruiting other companies that can take advantage of a highly skilled and motivated workforce along with a community that provides an affordable, outstanding quality of life for company executives and their employees. We are already in constant communication with Governor Bevin and his excellent staff at the Cabinet for Economic Development. They understand how important this issue is and will help lead our recovery efforts. Along with our many partners such as TVA, we will immediately begin the process of recruiting companies whose needs fit what we have to offer. It will not happen overnight and there will be short term difficulties, but we have been here before and have come out better than before.
We ask that you pray for impacted families, that we continue to be generous to those organizations that provide support in difficult times and that we all work together to move forward as a community and region."
For a full story on this news, see tomorrow's Murray Ledger & Times.