MURRAY — While the main concern of a roundtable discussion Tuesday centered on the welfare and immediate future for soon-to-be displaced workers at Murray’s Briggs & Stratton plant, other things also found their way into the conversation.
Among them was the revelation by Murray Calloway Economic Development Corporation President Mark Manning that, since the August announcement that the plant that has stood on the east side of Murray’s downtown area since 1985 would close next year, there has been much interest from outsiders about the building that houses the plant.
“Let me tell you, we have hit the ground running,” Manning said about the effort to perhaps duplicate what occurred between 2001 and 2002 when the Mattel toy manufacturing plant on Murray’s north side ceased operations, only to have the Pella windows and doors manufacturing company almost immediately commit to launching a plant in the same building.
“We had people at the Briggs plant this past Saturday and we had them out here (last Thursday, Sept. 12) as well looking at it and, while it is true that they are looking partly at the building, what they’re really looking at are those 628 people (who are employed at the plant) and it is those 628 people who are, by far, the most valuable thing that we have to sell in Murray, Kentucky today. “
In other words, as he has said from the start of this situation, the Briggs & Stratton workforce is a very marketable commodity, and it has been this variable to the equation that Manning said has been keeping his phone very busy at the EDC office since August.
“Briggs has also helped us out by telling us which categories those people fit. In other words, what do those people do?” Manning said of how this is allowing possible suitors to be able to analyze the abilities of the Briggs & Stratton workers. “From this, we now have a super detailed list of what these employees are capable of, and it’s substantial.
“There is virtually no manufacturing process that is not done at that plant. So we’ve got something very valuable to sell.”
This goes, Manning said, for employees who may seek another opportunity with another company in the region, or who could be part of the next company that fills the sprawling structure near the intersection of Main and L.P. Miller streets downtown. Manning said Tuesday that, in all, four companies have shown what he considered to be serious interest in the facility and more visits are scheduled.
Erran Persley, commissioner of the Kentucky Economic Development Cabinet, said Tuesday that he recently made a venture to China and it is his understanding that a company from that nation will be coming to Murray sometime in October specifically to look at the Briggs & Stratton facility.
“Everyone of those companies that have popped up, as I recall, didn’t know anything about the Briggs & Stratton building. They don’t know anything about the community yet, but I’m not worried about that because the community sells itself. Yet, out of the blue, something like two days after the announcement (of the closing that is set for fall 2020) I got a call from a company in Chicago that said, ‘Hey! We’ve been looking around for a location and it looks like you guys are going to have a really good skill-labor force available,” Manning said.
“Folks, it’s going to happen. But our city and county are 100 percent behind us and, from what we have seen, (Tennessee Valley Authority) and the state cabinet have made this a top priority. We’re hitting it on all cylinders. It may not happen in a week. It may not happen in a month, but, God help us, we hope it happens in a year.
“Thank you for your support and I ask for your prayers.”