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Monday, 23 April 2018 19:09

JSJ Corp. to close office furniture manufacturer izzy+

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Wabi chair by izzy+ Wabi chair by izzy+ COURTESY PHOTO

GRAND HAVEN — JSJ Corp. plans to wind down office furniture maker izzy+ after 17 years of operation.

The manufacturing holding company said today that it would discontinue production of izzy+ branded products and refocus its resources on other manufacturing segments in its portfolio, including automotive, medical and equipment.

JSJ Chairman and CEO Nelson Jacobson said the company planned to repurpose an izzy+ facility at 17237 Van Wagoner Road in Spring Lake and transition “as many people as possible to support three of our other well-known businesses in the area.”

“We are a 100-year-old company, and as we go through and look at the opportunities we have, furniture just doesn’t fit as well as the other businesses we have,” Jacobson told MiBiz. “We’ve been able to take these resources and skills and transfer them effectively.”

He said “furniture just doesn’t fit nearly as well” into the company’s growth strategy when compared to the “tremendous growth” for JSJ’s other local portfolio companies. They include GHSP, a Grand Haven-based global tier-one automotive supplier; Dake, a Grand Haven-based manufacturer of hydraulic presses; and Sparks Belting Co., a Grand Rapids-based manufacturer specializing in conveyance products.

“These are businesses we feel provide a lot more opportunity for all of the stakeholders at JSJ,” Jacobson said. “We made a decision that it was time to refocus our resources and take full advantage of the opportunities those businesses have.”

JSJ’s move out of the furniture business comes about two months before the annual Neocon office furniture trade show, where izzy+ was scheduled to have a showroom for its office, educational and health care furniture products. 

The current market has many manufacturing companies aligning their operations with their strongest capabilities, according to Jacobson. For example, Grand Haven-based automotive supplier Shape Corp. recently announced plans to sell off its stamping business to Ridgeview Industries so it could focus on its core competencies in lightweight automotive components, as MiBiz previously reported.

Jacobson said the repurposing of corporate resources and a refocusing on core competencies is likely to continue happening as manufacturers constantly re-evaluate their operations and position their operations for the highest growth opportunities.

“It’s a theme you are going to hear pretty consistently,” Jacobson said. “I think you are going to see many of us focus up, be fast and do what (we) are best at.”

JSJ will halt orders for izzy+ “and end production after fulfilling its supplier and contractual obligations.” Currently, izzy+ also has a plant Middlebury, Ind., which the company plans to close “at the end of its production cycle.”

“While izzy+ is an important part of JSJ’s history, unfortunately, it no longer fits within our strategic plan and goals for the future,” JSJ COO Tom Rizzi said in a statement. “It’s a consumer-facing furniture company, whereas our focus is investing in portfolio companies that provide highly engineered solutions and value-added services within highly complex, business-to-business environments. As we pursue new opportunities for growth, it makes business sense to discontinue the izzy+ brand and reposition our resources in other strategic areas.”

According to a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act notice filed with the Michigan Workforce Development Agency, shutting down izzy+ will affect 72 jobs in Spring Lake as the company winds down operations by July. 

Through the transition process, some izzy+ employees may reapply for open positions at other JSJ portfolio companies, while “others will receive financial compensation,” Jacobson said.

“Technically, since we are discontinuing one business and redeploying into another, that’s why we have to issue the WARN notice,” Jacobson said, noting that employees from GHSP are already on-site at the Spring Lake plant. “I am very confident that at the end of the year, we will have more employees than we did at the end of 2017.”

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