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Amsterdam Manufacturer Announces Closure


More than 100 workers in Amsterdam, New York will lose their jobs in the coming months. One of the city’s manufacturers is closing its doors.

This week, Fiber Glass Industries, Inc. announced that both its Amsterdam plants will close in the next 90 to 120 days.

In a release, FGI Chairman John Menzel, who would not speak about the closure, blamed competition from foreign manufacturers as a primary reason for the plant’s closure.

Menzel said the company is “competing with government-owned and government-financed competitors in China who have built more capacity than the market can absorb, and their government continues to subsidize these companies to export to the U.S.” 

The release also states the company was “stymied in an effort to work out a sale to an undisclosed foreign buyer” by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, and despite growth in sales, the company had been operating at a loss since 2008.

The company has operated for 57 years and employs around 120 workers.

United Steel Workers District 4 Sub-Director Richard Knowles released a statement on the closure, criticizing the U.S. government for not protecting American businesses against China’s “continued manipulation of trade and currency rules, across all industries.”

Amsterdam’s Community & Economic Development director Robert von Hasseln said the city’s immediate concern is to assist the families of the employees who lost their jobs.

“That’s going to be our first focus. Afterwards, we’ll work on trying to find the best tenants possible for the two buildings,” said von Hasseln.

Kenneth Rose, CEO of the Montgomery County Business Development Center, said the county will roll the two FGI facilities into its marketing efforts to help bring new business to the area.

“There’s going to be the potential of two facilities within the City of Amsterdam that we’re going to have to put out there and market aggressively, and reach out to our existing contacts and some potential leads that we’ve been working with to see if there’s interest in these facilities for them,” said Rose.

Mark Kilmer, President and CEO of the Fulton-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce, said that the region is a great place to do business. Kilmer agrees with FGI’s contention that the closure of the plants has nothing to do with its facilities or workers.

“It has more to do with the cost of doing businesses both in New York and the United States in general. It’s just sometimes prohibitive when it comes to competing with foreign nations,” said Kilmer. “Gradually I think there are steps that being taken to correct that problem, but this is just one of those situations where it hasn’t been corrected fast enough.”

In a city hit hard by the loss of manufacturing jobs over the past several decades and a county where about 1 in 5 people lives in poverty, it’s easy to cast the loss of FGI in with the rest. But Robert von Hasseln said that’s somewhat of a misconception.

“There’s a natural tendency here to think, ‘Oh well, this is just another chapter in Amsterdam’s demise, we lost the big mills decades ago and then lost a lot of businesses between 1995 and 2005.’ But the fact is the amount of businesses – the rate we’re losing businesses has gone way down, and some of our businesses, including manufacturing, are doing very well,” said von Hasseln.

Von Hasseln said Amsterdam’s economy is unlikely to rely solely on one industry in the future, as it did in the 20th century on its carpet mills. He predicts the city will be “balanced” with a mix of tourism, high tech centers, and commercial and manufacturing.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.