RACINE -- Almost eight decades of production at the former Jacobsen Manufacturing Co. ended Friday with farewell parties and mixed emotions.
The company, now called Textron Golf, Turf & Specialty Products, has closed its local manufacturing operations at 1721 Packard Ave. Those operations are being moved to another Textron plant in Charlotte, N.C.
Only the sales and marketing personnel and a skeleton staff of supervisors and maintenance people remain at the moment.
"It's a real ghost town in there now," said Bill Allen of Racine, whose 40 years with Jacobsen ended Friday. "There are a lot of empty desks."
The pullout cost the community all 275 jobs related to manufacturing and many of its approximately 125 administrative jobs.
"I didn't plan on retiring," said Allen, who was the company service parts buyer. "The decision has been made for me."
Employees reportedly marked the end on Friday in various ways. They had cake at work, some went to lunch at a local restaurant, and many union workers gathered at Tommy's, a local tavern.
John Coyne, a machinist with 32 years at the plant, said production ended last Friday. This week was spent mostly packing machinery for shipment to Charlotte.
He said he would take a few weeks off and then start sending resumes around. But he didn't expect to find a job here.
"There are no machining jobs in Racine," he said. "They're all gone."
Coyne characterized the mood among the rank and file by saying: "They're glad it's over. Because the last couple of years it was bad over there … it was a good place up 'til the last two years."
Coyne said Textron is anti-union.
"It was an older work force, and I think they wanted to get rid of us," he said. "That's part of the reason we're gone. We're union and an older work force."
Allen noted that three years ago, the company suffered a bitter strike. He believes that was the beginning of the end for the local operation.
With the shift of work out of Racine, many administrative employees took jobs elsewhere in the company, Allen said.
He said the end of Jacobsen has been hard on people. He recalled a conversation in which he and three others were talking. Respectively, the long-time colleagues had 40, 37, 36 and 41 years at the company.
"So you can imagine the seniority that we had there -- and we all said we'll never see each other again. We'll be scattered all over the country."
Sales and marketing will stay put indefinitely, Allen said. He suspected there just was no room for them in Charlotte. Some white-collar workers, he's been told, are working there in trailers with laptop computers.
Allen, 66, said he did get a severance package from Textron, so it was feasible for him to retire. Because of that, he has decided not to apply for any other job, at least for now.
"There are so many younger people I feel really need the job worse," he said.
People he worked with who are in their 20s and 30s have mostly had to hunt for jobs in places like Chicago, Milwaukee and Lake Geneva, Allen said.
"It's going to be long ride for these people," he said. "Some have just bought houses, and what do they do?"
Jacobsen/Textron used to be a mainstay of Racine and its manufacturing base. And it was a product of local innovation when Knud Jacobsen and A.J. Dremel designed and built an engine-driven lawn mower called the 4-Acre and introduced it to the public in 1921.
The company went public in 1968 and was acquired by Textron in 1978. The headquarters for the present company is now in Augusta, Ga.