FORT VALLEY — A toy manufacturing plant in Fort Valley closed its doors Tuesday, placing 104 full-time employees out of work.
Step2, which manufactures preschool and toddler toys as well as children’s play kitchens, playhouses and outdoor toys, told employees as they reported to work in shifts Tuesday morning, a company spokesman said.
“We know it is difficult for the employees impacted, for the city, for the county, and it’s not their fault,” said Allen Pfenninger, with the public relations firm of Edward Howard, based in Cleveland, Ohio, on behalf of Step2. “It was not a decision made in haste.”
Faced with the downturn in the economy and changes in the retail environment, the company decided to close the plant and move operations to its Streetsboro and Perrysville, Ohio, manufacturing plants, Pfenninger said. Streetsboro is the company headquarters.
The Fort Valley facility, which opened in 2000, was running at less than 30 percent capacity, Pfenninger said. It once produced 12 to 15 product lines but was down to five when the decision was reached Monday to close the plant after months of study, he said.
At its peak employment a year ago, the company had 183 full-time workers, Pfenninger added.
He said that information “kind of illuminates what the economy had done there.”
“People just don’t have the disposable income these days,” Pfenninger said. “They’re just not buying as many toys.”
For the next 60 days, affected employees will receive their regular rates of compensation and eligible employees will receive access to full benefits, Pfenninger said. The company had no part-time employees, he said.
Full-time employees also will receive severance packages, including tiered severance pay and benefits based on years of service, Pfenninger said.
About a dozen employees remain on staff at the Fort Valley plant and will help close out the facility during the next two to three months, Pfenninger said. Several job opportunities will be available for these employees to transfer to the other plants, he said.
Pfenninger also applauded plant employees for their hard work and dedication and expressed appreciation for the partnership he said the company enjoyed with the Fort Valley and Peach County governments.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.