By Mike Hudson, The Niagara Falls Reporter
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Back on July 30, 2013, we stated unequivocally that the 200 jobs at DuPont’s Niagara Falls facility were in grave danger.
“The future of the DuPont plant in Niagara Falls and the more than 200 employees who work there is a little uncertain at this time given recent public statements from the company and information obtained by the Reporter suggesting a sale may be inevitable…” we wrote more than two years ago.
“Today, there are 215 people working at the DuPont plant on Buffalo Avenue, and the jobs they hold are among the highest paid in the county,” we wrote in July 2013. “What does the future hold?”
This first week in December 2015, the public learned that the plant is closing and all 200 jobs will be lost.
These jobs are not the minimum wage service sector jobs held by many in Niagara Falls. The average worker at the plant makes between $60,000 and $70,000 a year, sources said.
Mayor Paul Dyster, who has waxed ecstatic over the opening of heavily subsidized coffee shops on Third St. and the 30 full time equivalent jobs as maids and desk clerks at the still not built Hamister Hotel as examples of his proactive economic policies, took the news in stride and assured every one he was on the job, even if they’d lost theirs.
“My initial concern is for ensuring the future employment of the employees and contractors at that facility,” he said on the day the news broke that the 200 DuPont jobs were going to be lost. “Already today, I have been in contact with the Company, Empire State Development, and other stakeholders in an effort to secure future operations at that site.”
The United Steelworkers Union also tried to put the best foot forward.
“I’m confident that if this company doesn’t just want to harm a community and harm its workers a deal can be done to keep the plant open,” says Jim Briggs, an official with USW which represents the soon to be jobless workers.
But Briggs admitted he was taken by surprise by the closure, given that he and others took a tour of the Falls facility with corporate representatives on Monday, just hours before the formal announcement was made.
At that time, Briggs said, there was no indication that the facility would be shuttered. He also noted that union members agreed to a new, four-year contract on July 1, with no indications that the company was planning to close the site at that time either.
While once known primarily for its chemical business, the 210-year-old DuPont Company has diversified and now is a global science business, veering headlong toward genetically engineered agriculture and nutrition products.
In any event, the city of Niagara Falls is losing a $13 million annual payroll and the “spinoff” on that will be devastating. Those workers ate in restaurants and bought automobiles and appliances here, owned homes helped keep what is left of the economy churning.
Neither Dyster nor Briggs seemed to have a clue that this was coming, despite its having been predicted on the pages of the Niagara Falls Reporter two years ago.
In our article two years ago we not only predicted the jobs would be lost but gave the corporate reasons why this was all but inevitable.
Two years ago we wrote, DuPont “announced it is ‘taking the next steps in its transformation to a higher growth company (and) exploring strategic alternatives for its Performance Chemicals segment.’
“That language is corporate-speak for ‘it’s for sale’… ‘The Buffalo Avenue plant…. is for sale, or soon will be.”
We based our 2013 conclusion that the jobs would be likely to be lost on a DuPont 2013 press release which read, “DuPont’s transformation to a higher growth, less cyclical company that integrates its unique scientific capabilities in biology, chemistry and materials to develop … attractive agriculture and nutrition, industrial biosciences and advanced materials markets worldwide”.
As we wrote in 2013, DuPont is “moving away from the kind of business conducted at the aging, Buffalo Ave. plant.”
Now in late 2105 that anyone should be surprised at the closing of the DuPont plant shows they simply weren’t keeping abreast of the very clear signs DuPont has given over the last few years: They are moving away from chemicals to genetically engineered food.
And with the high cost of doing business in New York State, and the antiquated facilities here, the handwriting was on the wall years ago.
Apparently, no one was looking.
December 1, 2015
Statement From Mayor Paul Dyster:
Today the Chemours Co., which spun off from Dupont earlier this year, announced that as part of a global workforce reduction they will be ceasing operations at their Niagara Falls plant by the end of 2016. This decision will effect approximately 200 positions locally.
My initial concern is for ensuring the future employment of the employees and contractors at that facility. Already today, I have been in contact with the Company, Empire State Development, and other stakeholders in an effort to secure future operations at that site.