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Racine County boat manufacturer lays off nearly 300 people

Sturtevant plant will stay open, continues to employ 350 workers

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Photo courtesy Manitou boats

A boat and engine manufacturer laid off nearly half its Wisconsin workforce less than a year after announcing a major expansion.

BRP Inc. laid off 298 workers at its plant in Sturtevant in Racine County, citing “adverse market and economic conditions.” About half of those layoffs came in March, while the other half came last month, according to a notice provided to the state.

The layoffs come after BRP announced plans last October to invest more than $14 million in improvements to its manufacturing facility. But the company’s revenues were down more than 16 percent in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, according to BRP’s latest quarterly earnings release

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“Given the overall boat industry slow-down with high levels of dealers inventory, we had to reduce our production in our Sturtevant facility, which led to the difficult decision to make workforce adjustments impacting manufacturing and professional employees,” the company said via email.

Canada-based BRP, previously known as Bombardier Recreational Products, makes outdoor recreation products including Ski-Doo and Lynx snowmobiles, Sea-Doo watercraft and pontoons, Can-Am on- and off-road vehicles, Alumacraft and Quintrex boats and marine propulsion systems.

The Sturtevant facility is the global headquarters for the company’s marine products.

It’s not the first time the site has had major layoffs. In 2020, BRP discontinued production of Evinrude outdoor engines, laying off nearly 400 people. The company had purchased the Evinrude brand — founded in 1907 in Milwaukee — in 2001, and moved into the Sturtevant factory that same year.

The company retooled the Wisconsin factory after that round of layoffs, switching production away from Evinrude.

A BRP spokesperson said the company offered “transition benefits” to employees who lost jobs this year, and will provide financial support as they seek new employment.

The spokesperson said the plant still has 350 employees who will help the plant continue to produce pontoon boats, engines and jet propulsion systems.

“We kept a core team to continue producing boats at a low output, and serving our dealers and customers,” the company said. “This approach will allow us to reduce inventory, while making sure we are well positioned to increase the pace when demand picks up again.”

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