By Jonathan Zettel
What might have been the worse kept secret in town has now been confirmed: after more than 60 years, Walkerton’s Energizer plant will close its doors next spring.
According to an Energizer spokesperson, the closure comes as a result of a July 1 corporate restructuring that saw Energizer Holdings Inc. split into two separate stand-alone companies: Edgewell Personal Care, which includes name brands such as Schick, Edge, Banana Boat and Playtex; and Energizer, which produces batteries and lighting.
“The household products business and the personal care businesses [sic] are really two separate businesses and a decision was made that in order for us to pursue our growth strategy effectively, that we needed to separate and so because of that, each company had to make decisions about its footprint and decisions were made based on that,” said Nikki Eaves, Energizer’s corporate communications manager, in a phone interview.
According to Eaves, all Energizer operations in both Walkerton and Hanover are planned to end by April 2016.
“As part of our strategic objective as a new company, Energizer plans to move its operations to third party suppliers in the Greater Toronto Area,” she said.
As for Edgewell, it will be moving its Walkerton operations and employees to the Hanover location.
“After the split, the Walkerton plant is Energizer owned and operated, so we no longer have ownership of that plant. Prior to the split there were a combination of both operations took place there,” said Lauren Medina, Edgewell’s corporate communications manager. “On our side, it’s pretty cut and dry: it’s not our plant so we had to move.”
Neither spokespeople would comment on how many employees the move will effect. However, Eaves of Energizer said the bulk of the employees there are Edgewell employees and Medina of Edgewell said, with respect to those Edgewell employees: “There’s no layoffs there anticipated right now.”
Brockton Mayor David Inglis said both council and the economic development committee had been expecting the news.
“We knew it was coming; it’s unfortunate,” he said. “And they’re left with that huge building that they’ll have to get rid of; they’ll have to put it on the market.”
Inglis suggested the building could be divided up to allow opportunities for smaller businesses.
The plant located on Highway 9 in Walkerton opened in the early ‘50s and has been a mainstay of industry and employment in the area.