Architecture & Design, Human Resources, and Manufacturing

Seating maker selling division and laying off 80

January 3, 2017
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Irwin Seating Company classroom
Grand Rapids-based Irwin Seating Company, founded in 1908, makes public seating. Photo via

A local seating maker is selling a division to a competitor in town and laying off about 80 workers.

Grand Rapids-based American Seating said this afternoon it plans to sell its Architectural Fixed Seating business to Grand Rapids-based Irwin Seating  Company.

American Seating signed a letter of intent with Irwin Seating, and the transaction is expected to close in March, pending due diligence.

Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Architectural business

Tom Bush, president and COO at American Seating, said the Architectural Fixed Seating business is “very seasonal in nature” and has “presented an increasing number of operational challenges, which led us to the decision to sell this portion of our business.”

The business is primarily made up of outdoor sports and educational seating projects.

Graham Irwin, CEO of Irwin Seating, said the company is working closely with American Seating to ensure a “smooth transition” to make sure customer needs continue to be met.

Transportation focus

American Seating said the sale is the culmination of its ongoing effort to “optimize its operations and resources” to pursue “significant growth opportunities” in the transportation seating market, where it said it’s already a “recognized leader.”

The company said its transportation business continues to represent “significant growth opportunities” and will be its “primary market” going forward.

“We have strong momentum in our transportation seating business and expect to benefit from the ability to focus our time, resources and talent in this market and carry on the more than 100-year heritage of American Seating as a global leader in seating,” Bush said.

American Seating entered the transportation industry in 1931, manufacturing passenger seating for the bus and rail markets.


As a result of the sale, American Seating has issued Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN, notices to the roughly 80 employees in anticipation of a workforce reduction in early 2017.

The company currently employs about 400 people.

American Seating said a portion of the American Seating employees affected by this action may have an opportunity to work for Irwin Seating.

Once final staffing decisions are made in the first quarter of 2017 in collaboration with Irwin Seating, American Seating said it will work with affected employees, providing them with outplacement resources to assist during the transition.

Irwin Seating

Irwin Seating is a fourth-generation, family owned business that operates two manufacturing facilities in the U.S.: one in Grand Rapids, which makes fixed seating; and one in Altamont, Illinois, which makes telescopic platforms and bleachers.

The company is one of the world's leading makers of audience seating for movie theatres, auditoriums, arenas, performing arts centers, stadiums and places of worship.

Its products can be found in thousands of venues all over the world.

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