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SABIC Closing Pittsfield Development Center, Merging Operations At Selkirk in 2017

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Twitter: @SABIC

SABIC plans to close its Polymer Processing Development Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts and move those operations to its Selkirk, New York facility in 2017. The move solidifies the company’s exit from the city.Update: Pittsfield's Mayor-elect Linda Tyer says she spoke with a company official about SABIC’s decision to close Pittsfield’s Polymer Processing Development Center and move those operations to Selkirk, New York in 2017. Tyer says she was told the company plans to build an additional facility at the Albany County location.

“I got the impression that there wasn’t much that we could do locally to try to compete for that,” Tyer said Wednesday evening. "However I’ve had a brief conversation with [State] Senator [Ben] Downing and State Representative [Tricia] Farley-Bouvier and I would like to try to keep up the pressure.”

SABIC is hopeful Pittsfield employees will commute to Selkirk, but Tyer doesn’t think that’s practical. The current city clerk takes over fellow Democrat Mayor Dan Bianchi in January.

Pittsfield Mayor-elect Linda Tyer reacts to SABIC's announcement.

Wednesday’s announcement follows October’s news that the Saudi-based company will close its innovative plastics facility in Pittsfield by the middle of 2016 and move those operations to Houston. SABIC’s director of corporate communications in the Americas Jodi Kennedy says its Exton, Pennsylvania site will also close.

“SABIC’s largest technology and innovation presence in the Northeast is in Selkirk so it was logical for us to merge all of that expertise throughout the Northeast at Selkirk given that it’s our biggest technology footprint,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy says some 450 people work in Selkirk, which also includes manufacturing. The move will happen once modifications at the Albany County location are completed. SABIC employs about 300 people in Pittsfield. Citing competition, the company does not publicize how many people work in technology and innovation. Kennedy says it’s too early to know if the latest move includes job cuts, but the company is hopeful Pittsfield employees can commute the roughly 40 miles to Selkirk.

“These kinds of decisions are very difficult,” she said. “We know that they impact our employees and their families. As with our other transitions, we’re committed to making them as smooth as possible.”

Congressman Richard Neal represents western Massachusetts and called October’s announcement a surprise.

“It’s a contrast to the growth that has come in the Berkshires particularly in places like General Dynamics which continues to hire,” Neal said in October. “I think that this is a setback. I toured the SABIC facility a couple of years ago. Those are very good jobs and are difficult to replace.”

After meeting with SABIC and area economic leaders, the Democrat said in November that many of the employees will find their way back to the regional workforce.  

"One of the things that I came away from that meeting with that was very pleasing was that many of those employees will find their way back to the workforce based on other opportunities," Neal said during a November 9th visit to Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield.

John Clarkson is the town supervisor of Bethlehem, in which the hamlet of Selkirk sits. He says the move signals good news for the Capital Region.

“They’re a highly successful manufacturing and really the heart of our industrial base,” Clarkson said. “They’ve been in the community for a long time. They are good citizens and neighbors. They care very much about safety and the condition of their employees and the community and I think that’s a good thing.”

Kennedy says SABIC is also hoping workers in Exton, a small community in southeastern Pennsylvania, will relocate to the Selkirk area.

“These three technology and innovation operations work on things like material science, process engineering and application development,” Kennedy said. “When you bring these capabilities together, this is what’s really exciting about the things we do for the customers. That gets back to the innovations breakthroughs and accelerated development cycle. While there certainly are efficiencies that will be gleaned from this, we also believe that we can create great value for our customers in solving their problems going forward.”

Kennedy says SABIC is on track and making progress toward the creation of a regional headquarters in Houston. In October, Kennedy said the decision to shut down its global innovative plastic headquarters in Pittsfield had nothing to do with the city or the facility, but rather is an effort to bring together talent to grow its presence in the Americas. As was the case a few months ago, Kennedy is not aware of any decision regarding SABIC’s participation in the expected Berkshire Innovation Center.

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.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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