HUNTERSVILLE – Roughly 35 people employed by Newell Rubbermaid in Huntersville will have a choice to make by early summer.
The company, which has 550 employees in Huntersville, is moving 35 of its product design jobs to Western Michigan University’s Business Technology and Research Park in Kalamazoo.
David Doolittle, a spokesman for Newell Rubbermaid, said the job movement benefits the company because of its need for a centralized location for its 100 designers. The designers were previously based in Huntersville, Atlanta, Springfield, Mass., and Winchester, Va.
“The reason for the move is that we want a center of excellence for our product design and innovation across all our brands,” Doolittle said.
“We’re bringing them together so we can create better products for our consumers and a better career path for our designers.”
Doolittle said the company chose Kalamazoo over other options like Huntersville due to the strong design community in southwest Michigan.
Newell Rubbermaid will keep its other 515 employees in the Huntersville campus located at 8935 Northpointe Executive Park Drive. The remaining jobs focus on departments including marketing, research and development, finance and sales.
The job movements won’t impact the company’s local reach, which includes offices for its home solutions segment largely within Rubbermaid and its tools segment mostly associated with IRWIN Tools.
“It really doesn’t (affect other employees),” Doolittle said. “It helps provide our Huntersville employees with better products to take to consumers. By creating this center of excellence we hope to bring better products to the market.
“Right now, Rubbermaid and IRWIN have separate designers for both graphic and product design. This will give people the chance to work across (platforms). It’s coming from our strategy to put emphasis on accelerating building great products.”
Lake Norman Regional Economic Development Corporation Chairman Ryan McDaniels said the area figures to recover well from the lost jobs, as adding businesses continues to be a priority.
“The Lake Norman region continues to be a highly desirable location for businesses and our community is committed to enhancing our efforts to attract and retain job opportunities,” he said.
“Our quality of life, low cost of living and (low cost of) doing business will continue to draw new and expanding companies from around the world. The EDC is focused on growing the local tax base and job opportunities.”
Newell Rubbermaid employees whose jobs will be moved have been notified. They spent the past two weekends making family-orientation trips to Kalamazoo.
Doolittle said the company has been encouraged by the supportive response it’s received from employees.
“We still understand those who choose not to make the move,” he added. “We will work with them through a transition period in the position and give an appropriate severance package if necessary.”
Doolittle admitted there is a chance Newell Rubbermaid could add jobs to Huntersville at some point in the future, but they won’t be in the product design department.
“As we continue to grow, there’s certainly the possibility of adding jobs to help the growth,” he said.