Briggs to close temporarily as area factories feel economic impact of coronavirus

Monday, March 23, 2020

The second largest employer in Butler County will temporarily shutter operations as area factories feel the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Others report they have halted hiring and could see more repercussions.

Rumors began circulating early Monday about a possible closure at Poplar Bluff’s Briggs & Stratton plant on Tuesday, but company officials would not comment. More than 500 people are employed there from around the region.

Greater Poplar Bluff Area Chamber of Commerce President Steve Halter later confirmed an announcement had been made Monday afternoon to employees, saying the pending closure was not related to any medical issues or directives, but instead was due to a general business slowdown and an inability to acquire component parts needed to produce small engines.

When contacted a second time, Briggs & Stratton representatives again declined to comment when asked about a closure.

Daily American Republic sources have said the closure could last until April 13.

WW Wood Products

At WW Wood Products in Dudley, Human Resources Manager Ken Rinehart said, the company currently is open for production, though several procedures have been implemented to safeguard workers. The company employees more than 1,000 people.

“We are curtailing new hiring until further notice,” Rinehart said, “and we are monitoring our people.”

The company’s multiple facilities, Rinehart noted, are “disinfected every two hours, including keyboards and other surfaces frequently touched by workers.”

WW Wood Products, Rinehart said, also has “loosened its attendance policy” as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.

“Our people can self-quarantine if they feel they need to,” Rinehart said.

Rinehart emphasized “everything is pretty fluid right now, and things could change from hour to hour.”

The DAR has reached out to other factories in the region, though most have not returned calls as of Monday afternoon.

“I hope they (any of the factories) don’t have to close,” said Halter. “As much as I would hate to see anyone get sick from this or any other virus, this has a far-reaching impact. The effects of the scare on our economy, both locally and worldwide, may possibly be worse than the negative impact of the virus itself.”

Unemployment benefits

For those employees affected by a Coronavirus-related closure, the Missouri Division of Employment Security’s website,, offers a wealth of information to help you apply for unemployment benefits.

According to the site, if an employer is forced into a cornovirus-related shutdown or must lay off workers because of it, those employees, in most cases, would be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Employees under mandatory quarantine would be eligible for benefits, while those voluntarily self-quaratining may be, depending on each person’s circumstance.

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