Kohler Co. will shut down its engine division in Kohler by the end of the year as it moves work to Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Kohler has had an existing lawnmower engine plant in Hattiesburg for the past 20 years, employing 350.
According to media reports, the company said the move will help them serve their customers better by giving them a single source for all of their twin-cylinder gasoline engines, but the company is still committed to its Wisconsin headquarters and promised to “make available alternative jobs in Wisconsin for the affected associates.”
About 280 production jobs and 320 administrative positions will be lost according to union officials. Some workers will take severance packages, while others have, or will, take other jobs at other Kohler locations, such as the generator division.
The company will lease 300,000 square feet in an industrial park in Hattiesburg to assemble its gasoline-powered engines. Mississippi’s Development Authority said state and local governments could offer Kohler more than $18.5 million in tax breaks and subsidies. Hattiesburg’s local government officials also agreed to settle a lawsuit by Kohler alleging the company had been forced to pay too much in property taxes.
Tim Tayloe, president of United Auto Workers Local 833 said current workers in Hattiesburg make about $16 an hour, while Engine division production workers in Sheboygan County average $26 or $27 an hour. The company plans to hire 250 people for its Hattiesburg plant over the next two years, with new employees averaging $45,000 per year, which qualifies the company for a state program that will rebate a portion of worker income taxes.