Coleman sells Maize propane cylinder plant

12/02/2011 5:00 AM

12/03/2011 8:30 AM

The Coleman Co. has sold its Maize propane cylinder plant to competitor Worthington Industries and laid off an unspecified number of employees at its main facility.

The $23 million purchase this week will mean no changes at the plant other than the name, said Worthington spokeswoman Cathy Lyttle. There are no plans for layoffs, she said.

Worthington will make the same propane cylinders and, under a licensing agreement, sell them under the Coleman name. Worthington already makes propane cylinders for camping under the Prograde brand.

“We are always looking for synergies on the production front,” Lyttle said. “There will be efficiencies gained by having another location from learning from each other’s best practices.”

Worthington Cylinder, a unit of Worthington Industries, makes a wide variety of cylinder products for heating, welding, recreational vehicles and forklifts. But the main business of the $2.4 billion, Columbus, Ohio, company is processing steel, particularly for the auto industry. It has 75 plants across the world.

Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said the company’s chief financial officer called him about the sale of the Maize plant Thursday morning.

“At this point they were only using 30 percent of capacity and the CFO said the new company will use 100 percent of capacity and Coleman would still be a customer of theirs,” said Brewer, who views the sale as potentially positive for the area.

Coleman, on Friday afternoon, acknowledged that it had laid off a “small number” of employees earlier this week as part of a companywide effort to improve competitiveness.

“Coleman is committed to accelerating international expansion and solidifying Coleman’s position as a global outdoor recreation leader,” company spokesman Alex Stern wrote in an e-mail.

The company said it has made sizable investments in its Wichita manufacturing operation, even as it pushes hard to expand sales overseas.

Brewer and the rest of the city government were angered in October when Coleman gave little warning before announcing that it was moving its top executives to the Denver area.

Over the past decade, the company has outsourced to China and elsewhere most of the manufacturing that was once done in Wichita. In 2009, it moved most of its shipping and warehousing operations to Gardner.

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