MURRAY — At a time when Murray is still getting used to the reality that it is losing one of its largest employers, its newest industrial acquisition has moved closer to starting production.
Tuesday, during the monthly Business@Breakfast event hosted by the Murray-Calloway County Chamber of Commerce, Murray-Calloway County Economic Development Corporation President Mark Manning told a near-capacity audience that automotive parts manufacturer DAE-IL began receiving some of its specialized equipment for installation to its facility at the Murray-West Industrial Park. This facility will eventually make powertrains for engines.
The plant is the first to be constructed in the United States for the South Korea-based company.
“A lot of people ask me about DAE-IL,” Manning said during his address in the Murray Room of the CFSB Center on the Murray State University campus, the vast majority of which focused on the pending closing of Murray’s Briggs & Stratton facility downtown. “Well, what I can tell you about DAE-IL is that, as of this week, it began bringing in its equipment. It’s been slow and I think it’s deliberate like that on their part because the auto industry is a bit slow right now.
“Their major customer is Hyundai and their sales have been off, but they’re not in a hurry and I’m not going to spend much time worrying about it because they have built a $20 million building (300,000 square feet in size) and they’re putting $30 million worth of equipment in it. So I feel good about that one.”
With the target being 120 jobs created from DAE-IL, this will not provide a repeat of what happened in 2001. That was when the Mattel toy manufacturing plant announced it was closing in Murray and the Pella windows and doors company of Iowa announced about six months later it would be moving into the existing facility. Mattel employed about 1,000 people, about the same number as Pella.
Briggs & Stratton employed 630 workers when it announced it was closing the Murray plant in August. The first round of layoffs was in October, with the second round planned for January.
Manning said Tuesday that the road to cutting the deficit created from the loss of Briggs & Stratton will include smaller gains, such as DAE-IL.
“What matters is what’s in the pipeline. It’s highly unlikely – like when Mattel left and Pella came in – it’s unlikely to see a scenario like that again,” he said. “Instead, you’re more likely to see a larger number of smaller companies. If you look at DAE-IL, it’s a $50 million investment with 120 people.
“You have lots and lots of capital investments with fewer people but better jobs.”
Manning also said he likes the fact that DAE-IL is putting its first American facility in Murray.
“Our M.O., if you will, is to hopefully go after companies that have at least a regional, if not national, headquarters. That’s one reason we like foreign companies, because you’re going to have more salary. You’re going to have engineers, accountants, you’re going to have, hopefully, sales people,” he said.
Manning also repeated what has been his personal theme since the Briggs & Stratton closing was announced: to do what he can to see to it that every employee losing their job because of this will be able to have another job as soon as possible.
“We don’t recruit (for the name of a company), we recruit so people have opportunities,” he said. “These 630 families are our friends and neighbors and, in some cases, our relatives. There is not a person or business or institution in this community that is not touched by the loss of Briggs & Stratton and I’m really proud of the different organizations that have stepped up immediately to try and put together the resources that are needed.”