Streetsboro, Ohio-based Step2 Co. LLC has acquired manufacturing, distribution and shipping assets in Decatur, Ga., where it will employ 150-175 people at a new plant there.
The site previously housed CI Rotomolding USA Inc., which had announced in October 2019 that it was looking for a joint venture partner or to be acquired.
Step2 didn't acquire the business or enter into a JV, but it did purchase the manufacturing equipment and it is subleasing the 132,000-square-foot facility, Step2 CEO Tony Ciepiel told Plastics News in an email.
Everything from rotomolding machines, quality control systems and power tools to office, assembly and maintenance equipment were acquired to meet "exceptional" demand for toys and home products brought on by the pandemic, Ciepiel said.
In addition, Step2 plans to hire another 100 employees for its two Ohio plants, in Streetsboro and Perrysville, to boost production of the popular products, such as the top-selling Neat & Tidy Cottage.
"Families are spending more time at home during this pandemic," Ciepiel said. "As such, many are looking for a variety of active indoor and outdoor play experiences for children while also seeking outdoor comforts to entertain and relax in a place many feel most safe — at home."
Orders are up for backyard toys, such as water tables, playhouses and roller coasters; wagons and ride-ons for neighborhood walks; and pergolas and patio products for being outside together.
"Parents are also looking for an outdoor retreat for themselves, and backyard entertaining and relaxing has become a huge refuge for them," Ciepiel said.
Founded in 1991, Step2 had operated a 109,250-square-foot factory with 104 employees in Fort Valley, Ga., from 2000-10 to serve the Southeastern U.S. and supply customers in Latin America until a slowing economy took its toll.
Now the spread of COVID-19 and the shutdown of both travel and school rooms have more people working and learning from home, which is boosting sales of some products.
"The acquisition of these rotomolding machines and other manufacturing and operational equipment will help us meet this demand and stimulate the U.S. economy in the process," Ciepiel said.
The new Decatur facility has been running since mid-July and is managed by Chris Price, who has more than 40 years of experience in the rotomolding space.
"We had a favorable experience when we operated a plant in Fort Valley, Ga., near Macon about 10 years ago," Ciepiel said. "As we began to experience this increase in demand and the opportunity presented itself to acquire these manufacturing, distribution and shipping assets, it made logistical sense for us to enter into an agreement and restart operations in Georgia."
The facility is implementing operating standards and processes used at the Ohio plants "to support a quick start-up and ensure consistency in our employee experience and our manufacturing quality," Ciepiel said.
The company also is hiring right now for manufacturing and office positions in Ohio and Georgia, including roto operators, powder handlers, assemblers and more.
Step2 products are sold through retailers and distributors in the U.S., Canada and about 70 other countries.
Step2 has more than 800 employees and ranked No. 3 in the most recent Plastics News survey of North American rotomolders, with 2019 sales of $175 million.