Originally created 11/19/96

Burke County plant might find new owner



Sunbeam Outdoor Products in Waynesboro, Ga., which received news last week that the plant would either be sold or closed down as a result of massive downsizing by its parent, may come under new ownership, a company official said Monday.

"There are people who are interested (in buying the Burke County facility)," said John Desimone, director of investor relations with Sunbeam Inc., based in southern Florida.

Though he wouldn't comment on the specifics of a potential deal for the Waynesboro plant, which employees about 500 and produces patio furniture, Mr. Desimone said, "The sooner the better."

Last week, the southern Florida-based company announced that it will reduce its number of worldwide factories from 26 to eight - four domestic and four abroad - and cut about half of its 12,000 jobs.

"For us to survive, we had to restructure," said Mr. Desimone, citing sagging revenues and profits over recent years.

The restructuring news not only rocked the Waynesboro plant, which is a dominant employer in the area, but had far-reaching implications. Mr. Desimone said he has been flooded with an "endless" stream of calls from the media and business communities around the world.

"Clearly, the announcement has effected a number (of people)," he said.

Plant Manager Hank Penner said the employees who reported to work Monday were in good spirit despite uncertainty about job security.

"They were thrilled to come back to work," he said. "It's business as usual for us going forward," he said.

Burke County Administrator Billy Hopper said he was unsure about the future of the facility.

"We have never heard anything officially," Mr. Hopper said. "Nobody knows what the situation is. The company hasn't given us any notice or told us any plans."

But knowing the importance of finding a buyer for the plant and keeping it open in the area, Mr. Hopper said, "Any help (the county) could give we would certainly do it."