90-employee Automatic SMP, in Decatur since 1948, to shut down

Jun. 27—Automatic SMP, formerly Automatic Screw Machine Products, is closing its 90-employee plant that has been in Decatur since 1948.

Originally a family-owned business, the company's ownership has changed several times, and it most recently was acquired by Connecticut-based Stanley Black & Decker in 2018.

A spokesperson confirmed the closure plans Friday.

"Stanley Black & Decker will move its Decatur, Alabama, manufacturing operations to the company's Brea, California, and San Miguel, Mexico, manufacturing facilities. This decision was made as part of Stanley Black & Decker's ongoing efforts to streamline operations," Stanley Black & Decker spokesperson Abigail Dreher said in an email. "The transition is expected to take place over the next seven months."

Local management of the facility did not respond to requests for comment.

The plant at 709 Second Ave. S.E. manufactures precision parts and specialty fasteners for the aerospace, heavy equipment, automotive and marine industries.

Stanley acquired Brea, California-based Consolidated Aerospace Manufacturing LLC in 2020, and Automatic SMP became a division of that subsidiary.

Jeremy Nails, president and CEO of the Morgan County Economic Development Association, said Stanley Black & Decker has provided him with little information about the closure or the reasons for it.

"Consolidation unfortunately happens when a larger company buys a smaller company. Sometimes they start looking at their facilities and try to downsize and shift production around," Nails said, often prompted by lower labor costs in Mexico.

Nails said the loss of an employer is disappointing, but he does not expect most Automatic SMP employees to struggle much in finding new jobs.

"The fortunate thing for those workers that are being displaced is there are a lot of job opportunities out there. Right now everybody is hiring," Nails said,

He said Alabama Industrial Development Training has contacted the company to offer job search assistance to the employees who will be laid off.

"There's going to be opportunities for those 90 people who are being displaced," he said.

Nails said the skills of Automatic SMP employees are likely to be transferable to Decatur manufacturers, and not just to Mazda Toyota Manufacturing in Limestone County and its suppliers.

"We've got a lot of machine shops in the area that are growing. Micor is having an expansion, M&J (Industries) is having an expansion," Nails said. "Those (Automatic SMP) skills are certainly transferable to those machine shops we have in the area. Those guys should be able to step into those positions."

Stanley Black & Decker did not respond to requests for information on plans for the 58,400-square-foot facility after it is closed, and representatives of the landowner, Chicago-based Baron Divestiture, could not be reached.

For several years, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management has overseen groundwater monitoring of the facility due to contaminants found there. In 2014, 1,742 tons of soil were removed from its rear parking lot after monitors detected arsenic, tetrachloroethene and other contaminants, according to ADEM documents.

The company earlier this year advised ADEM it had placed groundwater barriers around the facility. It also said it would place environmental covenants on the land that will prevent it from being the site of any potable wells, and that also would prohibit the land from being used as a residence, school or day care facility.

The building and land are appraised at $1.16 million, according to Morgan County records.

Automatic Screw Machine Products was formed in Chicago in 1914 and opened its 12-employee manufacturing plant in Decatur in 1948. The company moved its headquarters to Decatur in 1988. In its early years it made screws and similar parts that were sold at hardware stores, but it increasingly specialized in aerospace parts and fasteners.

It had a major expansion in 1976, and eventually reached a peak of 150 employees in 1989 under then-president and CEO Stan Belsky. Belsky worked to diversify the company's customer base so it was not entirely dependent on commercial airlines — a slump in airline manufacturing forced Automatic Screw to lay off 15% of its employees in 1992 — and by 1995 its largest customer was Caterpillar Inc.

The E.E. Norman family sold the company to Illinois-based Lawson Products Inc. in 1996 for $10.3 million.

Stanley Black & Decker is an S&P 500 company employing 53,000 people in 60 countries.

eric@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2435. Twitter @DD_Fleischauer.