Historic manufacturing plant coming down

by Bob Johnson 0

Residents of Muskegon, Mich., have lots of fond memories of the Brunswick Bowling Products manufacturing plant, which was built in 1906.

For decades, that plant employed as many as 2,700 people, providing a second “family” for many of the workers. Company bowling leagues promoted teamwork and camaraderie.

Even those who didn’t work for the company benefited by its presence. During the cold winter months, many local families received bowling pins that did not meet quality standards, and used them for firewood.

The plant spanned 280,000 square feet, but has been dormant since 2006 when Brunswick moved its ball manufacturing operation to Mexico. Now, the building is being taken down after efforts to sell it were unsuccessful, as this report (http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2013/04/demolition_of_historic_brunswi.html) details.

“I remember going past the plant on my way to Muskegon High School in 1962 and seeing all the activity, employees coming and going during shift changes,” Harold Phinney said in a related story (http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2013/01/harold_phinney_q_and_a_44-year.html). “I thought about working there someday.”

He did. That was in 1968, and Phinney has worked in various capacities at the plant ever since. He’s now the facility, safety and security manager.

“I look at it with mixed emotions,” Phinney said of the decision to demolish the plant. “As a facility manager, I see we needed to make this move. We had to get rid of the buildings because of cost issues. Many of the buildings have wood roofs, and that is so expensive to maintain. We kept electricity and heat going, and the utility costs were high. The longer you leave a building vacant, the more it is just going to fall apart.”

A staff of approximately 175 remains in adjacent office space, overseeing the company’s worldwide bowling equipment operations.

“Some companies who have left Muskegon have shut down everything,” Phinney noted. “Brunswick has done a good job of keeping operations in Muskegon.”

Demolition work is expected to be completed by the end of May, with many of the building materials being recycled for other uses.

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson has received more national writing awards than any other bowling writer — close to 70 over the course of his 40-year career. He began at age 16 as a staff writer and then assistant editor for the weekly Pacific Bowler newspaper in his native California, and within three years was writing feature stories for Bowlers Journal. He has written for the magazine ever since, except for a five-year span when he was hired as the founding editor of another magazine. He moved to Chicago in 2000 and spent 13 years in the Windy City, including five as Bowlers Journal’s Editor. In 1975, Johnson received the Robert E. Kennedy Award as California’s top undergraduate high school journalist. Five years earlier, on the lanes, he had shared the Bantam Division Doubles championship in the Orange County Junior Bowling Association Championships. Today, he continues to work full-time for Bowlers Journal as its Senior Editor, to write his popular “Strikes Me” column, and to edit Luby Publishing Inc.’s weekly business-to-business Cyber Report.