Over the next year Briggs & Stratton intends to move production of commercial-use Vanguard V-Twin engines from Japan to its manufacturing plants in Statesboro, Georgia and Auburn, Alabama.
For the Statesboro plant, the move means more than 50 added jobs and an $18-million expansion, the company announced along with state and county officials Monday.
In operation for 22 years, the Statesboro plant has until now produced only single-cylinder engines.
“We’re very excited about this commercial engine that will be new to us that we’ll be building,” said Briggs & Stratton Statesboro Plant Manager James Suchovsky. “It’s a great opportunity for our folks for some advancement, and also it creates a lot of new jobs for new employees.”
He deferred to a corporate vice president for questions about the number of jobs. The news releases stated that the Vanguard V-Twin expansion will add “more than 50” jobs, including executive, administrative, supervisory and production jobs, to an existing workforce of 370 people at the Statesboro plant.
But the plant has had undergone some previous reductions. Asked if the expansion will take the number of jobs at the Statesboro plant to an all-new level, Briggs & Stratton vice president of Marketing and Communications Rick Carpenter acknowledged that the number of jobs flexes up and down because most of the engines the company produces go into outdoor power equipment, “built in anticipation of spring and summer.”
After checking, he said the 50 jobs announced in the press release are being added specifically for the move in Vanguard engine production.
“In addition to those 50 jobs, there’s going to be another probably 55 jobs as well, and if you take those we’re going to be back above where we’ve been in the past in terms of a total employment number,” Carpenter said.
In other words, the addition of the line of commercial Vanguard V-Twin engines and increased production of single-cylinder engines together are expected to push the plant to a new record number of jobs.
Briggs & Stratton developed the Vanguard V-Twin in Japan in a joint venture with Daihatsu. These more powerful engines tend to be used in commercial equipment, such as commercial zero-turn mowers, instead of machines such as lawnmowers for home use.
“Moving production of the Vanguard Small and Big Block V-Twin engines to the U.S. is another step in the execution of our commercial growth strategy,” David J. Rodgers, a Briggs & Stratton senior vice president and its Global Engines & Power division president, said in the company’s announcement.
“We see this as a strategic competitive advantage because we can manufacture closer to our customers in the U.S., resulting in faster production times and faster shipping,” Rodgers continued. “I’d like to thank Daihatsu Motor Company for being a great partner for the past 30 years and for their continued commitment to assisting with a smooth transition.”
G.H. Tool growing
Meanwhile, another company with a plant on Bulloch County’s industrial Zell Miller Parkway, G.H. Tool & Mold, announced a smaller, related expansion of its Statesboro facility. G.H. Tool & Mold provides direct services to Briggs & Stratton.
Development Authority of Bulloch County CEO Benjy Thompson said G.H. Tool’s expansion is expected to create eight jobs and involve a $400,000 private investment.
“From our perspective as a development authority, those numbers are great, any jobs and any capital investment are terrific, but also what makes their expansion decision important is the value it is providing to Briggs & Stratton for their expansion,” Thompson said.
He described Briggs as “a kind of bellwether for manufacturing in Bulloch County,” often mentioned, because of its history here and its global reputation, when the authority pitches the county as a potential home for other companies.
The Georgia Department of Economic Development quoted Gov. Nathan Deal and Bulloch County Commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson in its release.
“We’re proud that an industry leader like Briggs & Stratton has chosen to expand its facility and employment roster here,” Deal said. “This expansion is a vote of confidence for the strategic location, logistics advantages and skilled workforce that Georgia has to offer for manufacturers.”
“Our community has been proud to be a home for Briggs & Stratton for over 20 years, and we’re pleased to see an expansion of their facility here,” said Chairman Thompson. “We think this decision speaks highly of our workforce and our business-friendly environment in Statesboro and Bulloch County.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.