Oneida County flatware manufacturer headed to the White House

Jul 18, 2017

An attempt to get the U.S. military to buy utensils solely from an Oneida County factory, the only silverware manufacturer in the country, was unsuccessful, but Sherrill Manufacturing's CEO is optimistic about a meeting the company has at the White House this week.

For 30 years the U.S. Defense Department was required to buy its silverware from Oneida flatware. That changed in 2006 after the company moved its manufacturing overseas.

Mohawk Valley Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford) tried to reinstate the requirement since Sherrill Manufacturing took over Oneida's old factory in 2008. Speaking on the House floor last week, Tenney said the partnership would help the American manufacturer and the economy.

"In districts like mine across the country that have rusted-out factories that line the landscapes of far too many of my communities, today we have an opportunity to fix this problem and restore the once great Empire State and our nation to the manufacturing strength it once enjoyed," Tenney said. 

Tenney's proposal failed in a voice vote last week.

Sherrill Manufacturing already sells about $600,000 to $900,000 a year in flatware to the U.S. government and its Defense Department. But CEO Matt Roberts says expanding that to the entire military would have been a major victory, creating about a dozen new jobs. 

"We estimate $3 million to $4 million in additional sales," Roberts said. "That would be a really big boost for us."

Roberts says Tenney and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) have promised to continue the effort at a later date. For now, he is concentrated on the meeting he has Wednesday at the White House.

The Trump administration is inviting domestic manufacturers to Washington to showcase their products this week. That could provide Roberts with the opportunity to ask Trump to make all of the White House's silverware American-made. Roberts sent a set of his flatware and a letter to Trump asking him to do just that earlier this year.

"We really don't know what to expect, we're just very excited to get a chance to meet the president, his administration and spend some time at the White House with them and show them what we make here in Sherrill, New York," Roberts said.