Briggs & Stratton, a Milwaukee, Wisc.-based company that, according to its website, is the world’s largest producer of gas engines for lawn mowers, snow blowers, portable generators, pressure washers and other outdoor power equipment, will close down its factory located at 535 Macon St. because, said Vice President of Corporate Communications Laura Timm, the factory has not been able to run at full capacity since the company acquired it in 2004.
“We hoped that the location could be financially viable, but the consumer lawn and garden industry overall has not recovered in our current economic downturn,” she said.
The factory employs about 475 people and Timm said its corporate parent has “been working tirelessly with its employees to provide assistance programs, benefits and give employees more opportunities during the phase-out in the first quarter of 2015.”
The plant, which manufactures pressure washers, snow blowers, zero-turn lawn mowers and smaller lawn and garden tractors, will be consolidated into other plants in Wisconsin with the manufacturing of zero-turn lawn mowers moving to upstate New York.
The company first opened its McDonough factory for operation after acquiring Snapper Inc., a McDonough-based company that began manufacturing residential and professional lawn care equipment in the 1940’s, in 2004.
City Administrator Frederick Gardiner said the city will be actively involved in attracting new businesses and adaptively reusing the factory building to try and find another manufacturing company to fill the void.
“[Briggs & Stratton] operates one of the largest companies employing city employees in McDonough and the overall impact is something that I know our economic development director is looking into to try and work on attracting another business and putting other local incentives in place, such as job tax credits and property tax abatements,” he said.
Gardiner said the task might prove to be a difficult one because the factory was modified for the company to use in their specific operations.
“It’s a unique facility and our goal is to not let it sit idly,” he said. “We want to attract a new business that will hopefully hire about the same amount of people.”
Although the city plans to assist new, potential businesses interested in the facility, Gardiner said the city as a whole is disappointed to see the company leave.
“We really hate losing them,” he said. “Some form of the lawn-care equipment industry has been a part of our community since around the 1950s and that makes it a stabilizer in McDonough community for over 60 years, so it’s hard to see an entity like that leave,” he said.