Congressman Richard Neal was in Pittsfield Friday to meet with city leaders and representatives of SABIC. The Saudi-based company has announced plans to move its Pittsfield plastics division to Texas next year.
Earlier this month, SABIC Innovative Plastics announced it would shut down its Pittsfield facility, which employs some 300 people as part of a reorganization to create a regional headquarters in Houston, Texas.
Congressman Richard Neal echoed what many local and state leaders have said about SABIC’s decision to leave Pittsfield in 2016.
“It certainly came as a surprise to us,” said Neal.
Meeting Friday with Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi, area economic leaders and SABIC representatives, Neal says he’s been in touch with Governor Charlie Baker’s office about how to help those who may be out of a job.
“Those are very important jobs and replacing them is very, very difficult,” he said. “So first of all, there is transitional assistance. Largely it’s federal money that comes through the states. Then you want to find out what retraining options are available. How many are going to relocate? How many are going to be offered opportunities for relocation? But not to miss the point, that one of the problems that continues to plague the American economy is the loss of precisely these sorts of jobs.”
SABIC’s director of corporate communications in the Americas Jodi Kennedy spoke with WAMC News shortly after the announcement.
“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.”
SABIC says it is also evaluating Pittsfield’s Polymer Processing Development Center and its location.
Neal was also on hand to celebrate a series of regional EPA grants. Out of $54 million in brownfield grants awarded nationally this year, $1.3 million have gone to four recipients in western Massachusetts. Included was half a million dollars for the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission’s clean-up revolving loan fund. The city of Pittsfield was awarded $350,000 to assess the former Stetson Dry Cleaners’ site behind City Hall, which Mayor Bianchi expects to become a parking lot.
“Wrestling with 20th century contamination in the 21st century is a challenge for communities all across the Northeast,” Bianchi said. “The EPA has been sensitive and timely in their help. They are here today to present the city of Pittsfield with the next piece of help.”
Congressman Neal also met with members of the Pittsfield Boys and Girls Club and the Pittsfield Community Connection, a youth and gang violence prevention initiative.
“Trying to head it off in the early stages and to get those young people to embrace more productive opportunities in their lives rather than being caught up in the cult of gang violence where there seems to be these tests regularly of whether or not one is worthy of staying in the gang and trying to extricate those from that activity is our primary goal,” said Neal.