Remington expansion plans causes concern in Mohawk Valley
When Remington Arms announced that it was going to build a new manufacturing and development facility in Alabama, people in central New York's Mohawk Valley became concerned their jobs were on the line.
Even though none of the plant's 1,300 employees are expected to lose their jobs, lawmakers say more can be done to support the firearm manufacturer's operations in the village of Ilion.
"We in the Mohawk Valley have been going through a whole range of emotions after the news broke that Remington was going to be doing an expansion in Huntsville, Alabama, over the next few years, totaling 2,000 jobs. And that was the bad news," said State Sen. James Seward, a Republican, whose district includes Ilion and Remington's oldest factory.
The one million square foot plant is located near where the company was founded and has been producing firearms for nearly two centuries, most of which has been done in the same building.
Seward says the company has assured him that there are no plans to move any jobs from the village to Alabama, but he hinted that last year's passage of the SAFE Act is an ongoing concern.
"As soon as the SAFE Act was passed in January of 2013, other states that are considered to be more gun friendly started courting Remington in a big way, including Alabama, in order to lure them and the jobs to their states," Seward explained.
In the 13 months since its passage, two firearms companies, American Tactical Imports and Kahr Arms, have moved their operations out of New York, claiming the law created uncertainty for their business.
Although New York's passage of the controversial SAFE Act has been cited as one reason for Remington's expansion in the South, Utica-area Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld) is quick to point out that the state's economic atmosphere is also to blame.
"New York state, in and of itself, is one of the most difficult places to do business," Hanna said. "New York has lost more wealth than any other state in the last ten years. Over $50 billion. I mean, we have the highest state [tax], the highest income taxes, local property taxes. Right here in Oneida County, we have some of the highest sales taxes. It's just an endless list."
Hanna also says there's still some reason to worry about not only Remington, but other businesses that may want to do business within the state.
"There is no imminent threat that is definable or on the plate that says they're leaving Ilion at all," Hanna explained. "It's just when you watch them grow somewhere else, you can't help but be concerned, and I think people should be concerned, especially considering the backdrop of New York state's economy and the difficulties associated with being in business in New York."
But State Senator James Seward has seen this drama play out before. He says there were similar rumblings in the mid-1990s.
"About 20 years ago, the company announced a new production facility in Kentucky," Seward said. "And at that time, there were all these concerns about, you know, we're going to lose our Ilion plant to the state of Kentucky. And even though the Kentucky facility remains, we have actually grown in jobs and production in Ilion since that time."
Seward says he and other lawmakers will redouble their efforts to retain Remington jobs in the region and help the company continue to expand its facilities in New York.
Recently, the Mohawk Valley plant received a $20 million upgrade to its facilities, and in December was awarded a nearly $50 million contract to produce rifles for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.