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Remington to close Ilion facility in March

Remington's facility in Ilion, NY
Facebook: Remington1816 
Remington's facility in Ilion, NY

Remington, the nation’s oldest gun maker, is closing its facility in Ilion, New York in March. About 300 people work at the site in the Herkimer County village where the company was founded in 1816. The move comes after financial struggles and bankruptcy proceedings in 2020.

The company has not responded to a request for comment, but did post a video to its Facebook page Friday morning detailing the move, citing the cost of operating the Ilion facility and New York's legislative environment as concerns.

United Mine Workers of America, a union that represents workers at the Herkimer County plant, issued a statement Thursday evening saying the news is a “slap in the face” to workers.

“The workers in Ilion enabled RemArms to rise from the ashes of the Remington Arms bankruptcy in 2020-21," said UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts in a statement. "Without these workers and their dedication to producing the best firearms in the world, this company simply would not exist.”

New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, a Republican from the 21st House District, placed the blame on New York’s strict gun laws.

Thursday’s announcement came as a surprise to village Mayor John Stephens, who spoke with WAMC Friday morning.

Stephens: I guess, heartbreaking, shocked, but not shocked. You know, we being the village, the county, the general region, we've been hearing stuff for years. But 37 years, my dad worked there and provided a paycheck and raised four kids on that paycheck. And there's always been ‘Oh Remington’s closing and leaving’, you know, never really paid much attention to it. So, but recently, you know, with the bankruptcies that they went through, and then the new ownership group, you know, we always had that thought in the back of our heads. So is it heartbreaking and disappointing? Yes. Shocking. It's shocking, because, you know, it's like, cold water hitting you in the face, you know it’s coming, but even when it hits you, you still take that deep breath and go, ‘Oh’, you know. And disappointment, and disappointment not with the company. But with New York State.

Levulis: I'd like to get to that point. But I think you alluded to it there. This is pretty definitive in your mind. This is it.

It is. Do I still have a little bit of optimism that, you know, we can sit down and discuss? Always. The door, there’s still a crack, you can still see light. It's not a whole big wide open door anymore. I believe they've probably made their choice. And, but you know, you don't know until you sit down at the table with these folks. And ask, you know, is there anything we can do to keep you here? Is there any type of financial assistance or any type of assistance that we can provide you? You know, I was mayor here from 2010 to 2014. And deputy mayor from 2006 to 2010. Dealt with Remington. I brought Remington along with our village board at that time and our village attorney. We brought Remington onboard our municipal electric in I believe, 2011 or 12. I I'd have to go back and look because it all kind of runs together. But we put them on our municipal electric power for the first time in the history of Remington, and the history of the village. Saved them millions of dollars in operational costs, because our power is so low cost. That's one of the things that attracts people to this village. We have our own water, we have our own electric. We have career fire, career ambulance, career police, everything we do here is a paid service that people pay for through their taxes to live in the village. And we're proud of that fact. But it's just tough for not only a gun manufacturer but sometime in a broad spectrum manufacturing in general to succeed in New York state.

Has Remington been in touch with your office regarding specifically this announcement, this closure announcement?

I knew nothing of this until yesterday (Thursday) afternoon at about three o'clock when one of my one of my personal friends that's also a news reporter for our local TV news station, called me as I was walking into my home for the afternoon, I said I can get out of here an hour early. So I snuck out at three as I'm in my driveway. You know, I answered the phone and she says ‘hey, can you can we stop and talk to you and get a comment?’ And I said ‘about what?’ And she says What do you mean about what I said? What are you talking about? And she says all know you aren't aware and I just No, no What? Remington just announced that they're closing in March. I had no knowledge of that. I hadn't been contacted. I've had basically zero communication with the current ownership group of Remington. Since I took office in July of July 4, ironically of 2022. I did reach out. I got an email back from one of the owners stating that he was having some personal health issues and that he would get back to me when he was back up and out and about and you hadn't heard. I came right back to the office. And while I was in here, I got an email from with the WARN notice from Brian Wheatley, who is their director of benefits and compensation is the title that he goes by. He's out of North Carolina, but I believe that their new headquarters is going to be in LaGrange, Georgia. So I did get the WARN notice via email. And it gave me all the information and, you know, states that operations will conclude on or about March 4th of 2024. And they will have all of the separation accomplished by the 18th, March 18th of 2024. That was the only notice I had.

And if I understand it correctly, it's about 300 workers at the facility in Ilion and it's the village’s largest employer?

Yeah. I believe it might be right around. Oh, well, I think it's 309 total. And that's inclusive of, you know, supervisory staff and stuff like that. I believe it's about 270 union workers, and in the balance would be supervisors, and, you know, security staff and stuff along those lines. So it's right around 300 people. Yes.

And you mentioned it, you know, in your original answer there, the impact on the community, losing such a large manufacturer, historic manufacturer, historic part of the village there, you also mentioned all the services that the village provides. What impact was this closure expected to have on the village's finances?

My treasurer was just in here sitting with me, because we're working on all that stuff. Currently, right at this moment it’s not going to be a very large impact, they still own the facility, they still have to maintain the facility, they still have to pay their taxes. You know, where we’re going to see a big hit is probably with the use of the electric utility. Obviously, if they're not producing, they're not manufacturing stuff. They're not using the electric consumption that we're used to receiving. You know, if you're not using it, you're not paying for it. Therefore, we're not getting the revenue from that. Financially right now this village is in good shape, we’ll continue to be in good shape, we'll make the necessary adjustments. I'm sitting here as I'm talking to you. I’m putting a press release out there, today, over the weekend, over the next days, weeks, you know, I'll be reaching out to our county, state and federal officials to say, ‘OK, you need to come here to Ilion, we need to sit down. And you need to help us.’ You know, we've done everything we've can at the local level to keep that company here over the last 15 to 20 years. You know, we've had good working relationship with that company, with the union. And now it's time for the state and the federal officials to step up and give us a hand. You know, this is a village of Ilion concern first and foremost, this affects us in the village, then it affects the county, then it affects the state, then it affects the federal government. But first and foremost, this affects the village of Ilion. I can walk across the hall from my office and look out the window and see that facility. It's in the dead center of the village of Ilion. It's a 34-acre, 1 million square foot facility that is going to be empty. We need their help. And if they don't want to provide that help, then shame on them. Because a lot of this comes from state politics. That's where I'm not good at this game.

Looking down the line, if Remington isn't calling that facility home anymore, what in your mind could be done with a facility like that?

I have been in constant contact with our [Herkimer County] Industrial Development Agency, the IDA. CEO John Piseck and his staff have been a great asset to this village. You know, we have a current project going on with an old factory, it was the old Duofold facility, which at one time was Remington Typewriter. And we have an investor there that is currently looking and has signed a purchase agreement. They're in the process of doing their due diligence, they call it looking at all the tests and, you know, whatever that an investment company does, to buy a facility like that, and we're looking at a $35 million investment to that. Speaking with Mr. Piseck, he's very confident that you know we can find a reuse for that facility. Now is it going to be one company, probably not, we might have a dozen different small entities in there using different portions of the facility. That's great. Personally, as long as it's being utilized, I don't care if it's 1 or 20. You know, let's move forward. We've talked about it, there's a plan B, and a plan C, and, you know, Plan A, obviously was never to have it close and leave Remington there. So now, okay, this is probably going to happen. So let's look at Plan B, and start talking and winding things up again, about what we've talked about over the last decade. So I'm very optimistic that, you know, that we'll find a reuse for the facility. So, you know, but it's going to take some hard work, and we're not afraid of that. You know, that's, that's what we're known for here in the Mohawk Valley. You know, we're blue collar people, we pull our sleeves up, we get our hands and our elbows dirty. I've said this quite a few times over the last 12 hours. Remington, they're not going to find a more skilled, expert, dedicated work ethic workforce in the world. And I'll repeat that, in the world, than they have right here in Ilion, New York. It's generational. You know, we have generations of families, three, four or five generations of families that work there. They're not going to find that anywhere else. They won’t. They've tried to move south a couple of other times and have always come back. That's where my optimism is that the door is not fully closed. Is that out of the realm of possibility? Am I thinking too positive? Or am I too optimistic? Maybe. But, you know, as the of this leader of this village, I have to be, that's my job.

Mayor, there's an argument that Remington is leaving Ilion because of New York’s strict gun laws. Smith & Wesson cited Massachusetts’ strict gun laws when it decided to move its headquarters from Springfield to Tennessee. Do you agree with that argument?

Partially, yes, absolutely. I believe that the folks in Albany in the majority, probably we're doing a little bit of a happy dance down there yesterday, which is absolutely disgusting. They got their way. They've been pushing this since our previous governor who I had a couple of different face-to-face personal discussions with about this. And he guaranteed me that Remington would be fine. So you know, you can take that guarantee and throw it out the window. But yeah, I do. State politics is one of the large factors driving this out of here. And obviously, the other one is the inefficient and age of the facility that they have now. You know, we've talked with them previously, their goal is to have a drive in one side drive out the other side with a completed product, one floor, bang facility drive in one door, it goes through the plant, you come out with a gun on the other side. You know, obviously here in Ilion you're looking at three four stories, and you're having to move parts and equipment and, you can come in on the floor on the main entrance on the first floor, and you come out on the fourth floor on the entrance to the backside of the plant. So in between there, you're going up three, four floors. And I get that. I understand that. And it's an older facility, it's got old infrastructure, and that's probably another big part of their reasoning is they've probably, and I don't know what they have, where they're going, because I've never been contacted and informed but I'm assuming that's what they're getting. And that's only an assumption.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate 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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