Gardner Pet Group will shut down West Bend factory, eliminating 36 jobs

Company owned by Chinese firm

Last updated on March 17th, 2020 at 01:38 pm

Gardner Pet Group plans to shut down its operations at 2845 Wingate St. in West Bend by Jan. 17, eliminating 36 jobs.

In a notice to state officials, the company said the decision was the result “of continuing adverse business conditions and reduced demand for our products.”

The 160,000-square-foot facility makes plastic injection molded pet supplies, including pet litter pans and boxes, kennels and enclosures.

Gardner Pet Group was formed in 2015 by its Chinese parent company Zhongheng Pet Article Inc. to create a U.S. manufacturing operation for pet supplies, according to a 2018 tariff exemption request filed with the U.S. Trade Representative.

Gardner Pet Group’s website also touts 2.5 million square feet of manufacturing facilities in China, a rawhide and treat facility in Cambodia and the headquarters of the M-Pets brand in Belgium. The company has more than 1,000 employees globally, according to its website.

The company sought and received an exemption on a 25% tariff for custom injection molds levied as part of President Donald Trump’s ongoing trade dispute with China.

The request said the molds were designed and developed on an as-needed basis by Gardner Pet Group and then provided by the Chinese parent company. Gardner Pet Group argued the tariffs would make it more difficult to compete against foreign-made products and U.S. suppliers were not available for the molds because of the parent company’s expertise in making them.

“These molds have a theoretical life expectancy of three to five years, but this life expectancy is

greatly affected by the eventual popularity of the final pet product for which the mold has been

developed,” the request said, noting high-volume sellers may lead to a shorter lifetime while low-volume molds may be retired early.

The exemption is good through at least Dec. 28.

Gardner Pet Group’s notice to state officials did not indicate if the decision to close the West Bend factory is tied to the ongoing trade dispute.

A company official did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers manufacturing for BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.