Pittsfield Leaders Respond To SABIC's Announced Departure
SABIC Innovative Plastics is shutting down its Pittsfield’s facility, which employs some 300 people.The Saudi-based company announced the move Thursday as part of a reorganization to create a regional headquarters in Houston, Texas. SABIC says work done at the Pittsfield site, which employs about 300 people, will be relocated to Houston. The company will leave its Pittsfield office in 2016. Jodi Kennedy is SABIC’s director of corporate communication in the Americas. She says the decision has nothing to do with the Pittsfield location, but rather is an effort to bring together it talent to grow its presence in the Americas.
“We will take a step back and take a look at what are the roles and capabilities that are going to be needed to support SABIC’s growth in the Americas going forward,” Kennedy said. “From there we’ll determine where roles need to be located. Some will be relocated to the greater Houston area, some could relocate to other SABIC sites and we also expect that some roles may no longer be required. Those roles would likely be eliminated.”
Kennedy stressed how difficult the decision was for the company. SABIC says it is also evaluating Pittsfield’s Polymer Processing Development Center and its location. SABIC says it is committed to a smooth transition to the Houston office for its workers.
Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi says he had heard bits and pieces, but nothing official from SABIC before Thursday’s announcement which he calls a “corporate decision.”
“Well obviously it’s unfortunate,” Bianchi said after the company made its public announcement Thursday afternoon. “SABIC is a major employer here in the city.”
City Clerk and mayoral challenger Linda Tyer called it devastating news for SABIC employees and their families. Having heard rumblings about the announcement, Tyer shared how she would’ve acted if mayor.
“I would have immediately put in place some efforts to communicate with the executives to determine if there were things that the city could do to incentivize them for staying here in our city,” Tyer said. “I would have been knocking on the door, making phone calls, getting the delegation involved, getting other businesses leaders to reach out and try to come up with some solutions for keeping this important employer in our city.”
Bianchi says nothing could have been done by federal, state or local officials to prevent this move. He says he’s been on the phone with Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, Congressman Richard Neal and Governor Charlie Baker’s office since the announcement.
“So what we will be doing is establish a rapid response assistance team to work with the people at SABIC,” Bianchi said Friday morning. “I met today with people from the [Berkshire] Chamber of Commerce, 1Berkshire and the regional employment board and we’re putting together a strategy to be able to, as soon as demographic information is available from SABIC – we’re hopeful that information will start coming in today – we will know the kinds of positions and skill sets that people who are going to be affected will have.”
SABIC’s Kennedy says there is no decision yet on whether the company will remain part of the expected Berkshire Innovation Center in Pittsfield.
Jonathan Butler of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce says the advance notice may help the region retain some SABIC employees.
“This is a type of workforce that we believe will have an opportunity to be absorbed into some other existing industries in the Berkshires,” Butler said. “That’s really where our priority is laying right now.”
Butler says SABIC, which is a Chamber member and top investor of the county’s economic development agency 1Berkshire, did not reach out to the Chamber before the public announcement.
In 2007, SABIC acquired General Electric’s Plastics division, which operated in Pittsfield for more than seven decades, for $11.6 billion. In 2014 the company reported revenues of $50 billion operating in more than 50 countries with roughly 40,000 employees. The company already has three locations in the greater Houston area.