Steelcase to close three North American manufacturing plants

Jan 12, 2011

Grand Rapids office furniture maker Steelcase says it will close three manufacturing plants in North America. 400 workers will be laid off at a plant in the Grand Rapids suburb of Kentwood.

Steelcase spokeswoman Jeanine Holquist says in the past decade, the company has closed enough plants to eliminate a combined 10 million square feet of manufacturing space.  “It’s hard to believe but we do still, at that, have excess capacity,” Holquist said.

It will cost the company $45 million dollars to close the plants in Ontario, Texas, and the Grand Rapids suburb of Kentwood. But she says restructuring will save Steelcase $35 million a year after that.

“That’s not an insignificant savings. And as Steelcase looks to become, you know, increasingly fit, increasingly agile, increasingly profitable those are improvements in savings that we just can’t ignore.”

Holquist says Steelcase will offer employees at both manufacturing plants in Kentwood a buyout offer. She says they hope the 400 positions will be eliminated voluntarily.

“We’re very proud of our West Michigan and North American workforce and we’re aware that when we make decisions that it does negatively impact some people, however of the other hand it does positively impact Steelcase employees and future Steelcase employees around the world.”

Holquist says the move will help Steelcase in its effort to become a more globally competitive company.

Steelcase has 9 manufacturing plants in North America. Kentwood east, Markham, Ontario, and Grand Prairie, Texas plants are slated to close. 6 plants remain, including Gaines Township and Kentwood west in Michigan, one in Athens Alabama, High Point, North Carolina, and two in Mexico.  Holquist says Steelcase has 10 plants in combined in Europe and Asia, but that the square footage of the buildings are about 230,000 square meters.