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Leggett & Platt likely out by end of July

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By Walt Reichert

Leggett & Platt, once the county's largest employer, is down to a skeletal crew and within a few weeks even they will be gone.

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“We've got 16 workers left,” Plant Manager Doug Allen said. “They're moving assets and getting ready to close.”

Allen said the plant will “probably be closed by the end of the month.”

The company will keep a small presence in Simpsonville – an engineering staff and design team – for the foreseeable future, he said.

Leggett & Platt, based in Carthage Mo., has operated its plant in Simpsonville for 50 years. The company, founded in 1883, produces components for bedding and furniture.

At its peak, about eight years ago, the Simpsonville plant had about 750 workers who worked two, 10-hour shifts.

In the face of dwindling sales as the economy shrank – sales for the whole company dropped 20 percent since September 2008, Leggett & Platt's Web site said – company officials last year decided to cut 15 percent of the firm's workforce and close some of its facilities. Work that was done at the Simpsonville plant is now being done at plants in Leitchfield and Mississippi. Some of the work done in Simpsonville has also been lost to offshore manufacturers, Allen said.

Layoffs at the Simpsonville plant started in mid-December, when the company still had about 240 workers here.

Leggett & Platt has engaged the services of a couple of real estate firms to market the plant to potential buyers, Allen said. The plant is located on 23 acres of land on Main Street in Simpsonville. The plant's five buildings contain 240,000 square feet of space and sit on both sides of the railroad tracks that run through the city.

Allen said the land and buildings would be suitable for a manufacturing or light manufacturing firm to move into. But he said the residential nature of the area that has grown up around the plant over the last five decades might make it difficult to attract a large manufacturing company. Allen said the company might be willing to split up the land and buildings to make it more attractive to a buyer.

Simpsonville Mayor Steve Eden said he hopes the property may be attractive to a distribution company with 50-to-100 employees. But Allen said the land and buildings “are not positioned well for distribution.”

Eden said the city of Simpsonville, as well as the Shelby County Industrial and Development Foundation, has offered the company help in marketing the property.