Sleaford job prospects in manufacturing and engineering have been dealt a body blow with the announcement today (Friday) that a major farm machinery manufacturer is to close its factory in the town.
Great Plains Manufacturing has announced its decision to stop production of Great Plains products at its Woodbridge Road factory site and close the facility.
The company says this decision comes in the wake of an extended downturn in the worldwide agricultural economy.
Current production is to be completed by mid-2017. Other operations and functions of the Sleaford site will be phased out after the 2017 autumn season with facility to be closed early in 2018.
It states in the future, parts and service operations will be continued under the responsibility of Great Plains Manufacturing with support from its sister company, Kverneland Group.
Linda Salem, President of Great Plains Manufacturing, said: “We examined many options before we chose this path. We know this affects the lives of our team members, their families, and our customers, making it a painful decision. After long and careful consideration, we have determined that the long-term weakness in the agricultural economy has made it no longer viable to keep the facility in operation.”
The company says it will work with appropriate government agencies and the local communities to “help make the transition for affected employees as smooth as possible”.
The company president added: “Great Plains Manufacturing is proud to have worked with our many committed dealers, distributors and suppliers for so many years. Together, we have provided quality products and outstanding service to our farming communities. Plans to continue to provide parts and service for these products through their reasonable life cycles are in place and will be shared as the transition occurs.”
The shock news comes after the company announced in March last year it was to shed 40 jobs in a move to compete with a “challenging market”.
Great Plains UK reduced staffing levels in its fabrication, welding and other departments through voluntary redundancies and the release of agency staff.
David Holmes, UK Sales Director of the American-owned company told The Standard at the time: “Through January we have had a restructuring process which was really based around the fact that for the last 40 years we have been manufacturing high quality tillage and seeding farm machinery and have managed to grow the business and increase our markets across existing and new markets worldwide.”
Great Plains had acquired the Sleaford firm Simba in 2010 (Simba being founded in the area back in 1976) and invested heavily in the site to make it its main base for Western Europe.
But Mr Holmes said the steel market, political pressures, the current overall slowing of the agricultural market and an unfavourable exchange rate had combined to work against the company.
He said it had been difficult to compete in the European market leading to a reorganisation of the manufacturing process to meet their long term strategy for growth.
They were to source fabrication and weldments from markets with a more favourable exchange rate.
Twelve months later it appears these moves were not enough to save the site and its remaining workforce.
Coun Marion Brighton, who had Executive Board oversight of financial matters at North Kesteven District Council, at the time of last years news commented that it was “terribly disappointing news for a great Sleaford business”.
○ Great Plains Manufacturing, founded in 1976, employs over 1,300 people worldwide. It encompasses five divisions: Great Plains Ag, which manufactures seedbed preparation, nutrient application, and seed placement equipment, and other farm implements; Land Pride, which manufactures grounds maintenance tools such as mowers, rototillers, rotary cutters, dirt-working equipment and construction equipment attachments; Great Plains International, which sells the company’s products worldwide; Great Plains Trucking, which operates a nationwide fleet of flatbed trucks; and Great Plains Acceptance Corporation, which finances the company’s products. Now a Kubota company, Great Plains Mfg Inc. has its headquarters in Salina, Kansas.