This small village in New York has been making weapons for 200 years. What happens when Remington leaves?
ILION, N.Y. (AP) — Remington started here two centuries ago and generations of workers have turned out rifles and rifles at the massive firearms factory in the middle of this blue-collar village in the heart of New York’s Mohawk Valley.
Now Ilion residents are preparing for Remington’s exit, ending an era that began when Eliphalet Remington He forged his first rifle barrel nearby in 1816.
The oldest gunsmith in the country Recently announced plans To close the factory at the company’s original headquarters early next month, due to the high cost of operating the historic factory. Remington is beefing up its operations in Georgia, a state the company says is better suited to the firearms industry.
The recent history of the company has been marked With a lawsuit After the Sandy Hook school massacre and bankruptcy filings led to new ownership of the Ilion plant, the workforce dwindled from about 1,300 workers more than a decade ago to about 300.
But the move is still painful for the village of 7,600, who face the prospect of a huge loss of revenue and a sprawling vacant factory.
“When you leave Remington, it’s not like leaving the facility, it’s like part of your family has moved on,” said Jim Conover, who started packing guns at Remington in 1964 and retired after 40 years as production manager. .
The arms industry dominates and defines Ilion. It is as intertwined with the city as Detroit’s automobile production.
Mayor John Stevens meets with village board members under a seal depicting Eliphalet Remington holding a long gun. The four-story brick factory next to Armory Street and Remington Avenue looms over the community about 55 miles (90 kilometers) east of Syracuse.
Everyone knows someone who worked at the factory. For some families, jobs there are practically a birthright. Conover’s father and sons also worked at the mill. Kiln operator and technician Frank “Rusty” Brown is still there this year with family members.
“My mother worked there. My father worked there. My wife works there with me now. My daughter works there with me now. My second daughter works there with me now. My brother-in-law works there,” said Brown, president of United Mine Workers of America 717. “It’s a double blow for me and my wife: two of us are out of work.”
The current owners of Remington Firearms, RemArms, blamed “production inefficiency” for the plant closing in a Nov. 30 letter to union officials. They pointed to the high cost of maintaining and securing about 1 million square feet (92,903 m2) of space in multiple buildings, many dating back to World War I.
RemArms added that Georgia provides a better environment that “supports and welcomes the firearms industry.”
CEO Ken Darcy also said in a press release that the industry was concerned about the “legislative environment” in New York.
Some believe that Remington is primarily shifting south to reduce labor and operating costs.
But in upstate New York, where support for gun rights tends to be strong, some Republican elected officials seized on the company’s comment on Georgia. They linked the plant’s closure to Gun control measures Democrats in the New York City area have championed it in recent years.
Remington is not the first firearms maker to commit to a more firearms-friendly state.
Smith and Wesson Opened its new headquarters in Tennessee in October after it had been based in Springfield, Massachusetts, since 1852. When announcing the move in 2021, company officials criticized proposed state legislation that they said would prevent them from manufacturing certain weapons.
RemArms, which bought the firearms business in 2020, did not respond to emails and calls seeking comment.
The company said in its letter to the union that it expects to end operations at the facility around March 4. The company previously announced in 2021 that it was. Moved its headquarters to LaGrange, GeorgiaA factory and a research operation will be opened there.
Long gone are the days of traffic jams in Ilion every afternoon, when day shifts are let out. The factory’s large parking lot is dominated by empty spaces. Nearby businesses that deliver lunches to the plant, such as Franco’s Pizza, have already seen orders drop significantly.
“Their numbers have dwindled,” Franco’s owner Daniel Mendez said. “This won’t necessarily put us out of business, but it hurts.”
With a fraction of its former workforce, Remington leaves Ilion with little more than a whimper of fanfare.
Stevens believes the remaining workers will be able to find other work in the area. But he also estimates that losing the plant could cost the village nearly $1 million a year, including utility payments and taxes.
Local officials hope the factory site can host a mix of manufacturing, retail and residential units. But her fate remains unclear. It was put up for sale last month for 10 million dollars.
“Things can become an eyesore quickly,” said Michael Desautel, a historian at the Ilion Public Library. “And being in the middle of the village like this, you can’t let him pass by.”
The current factory location dates back to 1828, when Eliphalet Remington located its operations along the recently opened Erie Canal. Although guns have historically been Ilion’s primary product, Remington also made typewriters, sewing machines, and other consumer items.
Cerberus Capital Management purchased Remington Arms in 2007, placing it in the same family of companies as Bushmaster Firearms and other gun companies. Bushmaster Firearms moved its manufacturing operations to Ilion for a time in 2011.
Remington Outdoor Company and its subsidiaries Filed for bankruptcy protection In 2018, due to declining sales as well as legal and financial pressures after the crisis Sandy Hook school shooting Who killed 20 first-graders and six adults. A Bushmaster AR-15 rifle was used in the massacre.
Family members of victims and survivors of the shooting filed a lawsuit in 2015 against Remington Settled in 2022 For 73 million dollars.
second Bankruptcy file It was manufactured in July 2020. Within months, 545 workers were laid off at the Ilion factory.
The company’s assets were divided at the auction. A judge has approved Vista Outdoor’s $81.4 million bid to buy Remington’s ammunition and accessories business. The Ilion plant went to a group of investors called the Roundhill Group as part of a $13 million bid.
After months of union negotiations, the firearms plant reopened in the spring of 2021. If RemArms sticks to its March closure schedule, the restart at Ilion will last just under three years.
The mayor said there will be difficult decisions ahead, but he is confident the site will be used again. While Remington may be leaving, he said the connection can’t be severed completely.
“Even when they stop being 100 percent involved in Ilion Village in any way, we will still be known for that,” Stevens said. “You can’t erase history.”
(tags for translation) Eliphalet Remington