Community Forum Discusses Path Forward For Affected Briggs-Stratton Employees
West Kentucky economic development leaders, welfare organizations and government officials are developing initial plans to help more than 600 employees affected by the pending closure of Murray’s Briggs and Stratton manufacturing plant.
In a forum on Tuesday, Murray Calloway County Economic Development Corporation President Mark Manning announced the “Together” fundraising campaign to provide immediate financial assistance to laid off employees. He said donated funds would go directly to local social resources and welfare organizations including Calloway County Family Resource and Youth Service Centers, Murray Family Resource Youth Service Centers, Murray Calloway Need Line, and Soup for the Soul.
Manning said his organization is also selling a shirt with a black and red heart-shaped “Together” logo on the front to raise funds. He said his organization is also hitting “the ground running” in recruiting new businesses to replace Briggs and Stratton.
“We don’t want any family that’s affected by this closure to suffer more than absolutely necessary,” Manning said. “[New companies] are partly looking at the building, but what they’re really looking at is those 628 people. And those 628 people are by far the most valuable thing we have to sell in Murray, Kentucky.”
West Kentucky Workforce Board Director Sheila Clark also announced her organization is asking for grants from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Kentucky Cabinet of Education Development and Workforce, for almost $2 million and more than $500,000, respectively. The two-year grant requests, if approved, would go toward creating a temporary career center for dislocated employees.
The center would connect affected Briggs and Stratton employees to retraining and education opportunities, provided in part by West Kentucky Community & Technical College and Murray State University, and also connect employees to social welfare organizations. Clark anticipates the center to be officially announced in the next few weeks.
“We would try to work quickly to get it up to serve those individuals that would be in the first wave of layoffs, close to October 25,” Clark said. “If possible, we’d try to work with [Briggs and Stratton] and let individuals attend ‘rapid response’ events while the company is still there.”
‘Rapid response’ events would be meetings that provide affected employees with information on available career services, resources and workshops for finding new employment. “After they’ve attended a ‘rapid response’ event, it’s an awful lot of information to get in a 30, 45-minute period of time. So we’d encourage them to make an appointment at the career center,” Clark said.
A resource fair for affected employees is also planned for November 7. Donna Herndon, Chair of Calloway United Benevolent Services, said she wants to make sure Briggs and Stratton employees who live outside of the county also are provided career assistance.
“We obviously have the largest number of employees that live in Calloway County. But we don’t want to exclude anyone, and we want everyone to feel the love and support and concern that all of us have,” Herndon said.