Step2 Corp. will open its first non-U.S. plant, in Northern Ireland, by late summer, the consumer products rotational molder announced June 9.
Step2 of Streetsboro, Ohio, will invest $3.1 million in equipment and to renovate a leased, 23,000-square-foot facility in Coleraine, Northern Ireland. It initially will produce children's play products there, but wants to add rotomolded home and garden products, said spokeswoman Dotti Foltz.
Foltz estimated the European market for rotomolded play products at about $1 billion annually, but sales recently have been flat. She stressed that Step2's sales have been growing in Europe since it recently established a sales representative in the United Kingdom, and the manufacturing facility should spur further growth. She did not disclose European sales figures.
Step2 faces numerous competitors in Europe, including Little Tikes Co., its chief rival.
The firm did not disclose equipment details for the Coleraine plant. It expects to create 22 jobs and boost employment to about 52 during three years. Step2 named Walter Scott, a Northern Ireland native, manager of the operation. Scott has worked as a consultant to Step2 since January. He formerly managed Little Tikes' recently closed Guelph, Ontario, rotomolding plant.
Thomas Murdough, Step2 founder and president, also founded Little Tikes and was its president until 1989, several years after Rubbermaid Inc. of Wooster, Ohio, bought the firm. He formed Step2 in 1991.
Foltz said Step2's sales in the United States, Canada and 65 other countries last year were more than $90 million. Its sales of 75 children's products and 25 home and garden products are expected to exceed $100 million in 1997. It employs more than 1,000 at Ohio facilities in Streetsboro, Twinsburg and Perrysville.