The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • SCIDA: We want to ‘keep the lights on’ at Philips Lighting

  • One local economic expert said Thursday he is determined to do what he can to “keep the lights on” at Philips Lighting.

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  • One local economic expert said Thursday he is determined to do what he can to “keep the lights on” at Philips Lighting.
    Philips workers were told Wednesday morning the plant on State Route 54 will close by the end of 2013. Philips officials later confirmed the closure, saying it was due to a decrease in demand for the technology manufactured at the plant in Bath.
    But Steuben County Industrial Development Agency Executive Director Jamie Johnson said he expects to meet with Philips corporate officials some time next week to see what – if anything – can be done to keep the plant open.
    “A lot depends on what they need,” Johnson said. “If it’s workforce, we’ll deal with that. Investments, tax abatements? We can do that. If it’s a cost need, we’ll look at ways to reduce the costs, through grants, assistance. The toughest thing for us to do will be to fill it later. We want to keep the lights on in the building.”
    The Netherlands-based Philips now reportedly has about 280 workers, and is the largest private employer in the town of Bath, second only in employment numbers to the Bath VA.
    Closing the plant could have a dramatic impact on the struggling economy in the town and the county, Johnson said.
    “No new cars, they won’t be able to buy lunch, buy groceries, get mortgages,” he said.
    While Philips officials in the firm’s corporate headquarters in Massachusetts said Wednesday they will help workers find new jobs, Johnson said it is very unlikely most of the employees will want to relocate.
    “The vast majority are engrained in the community,” he said. “They won’t want to go.”
    No one wants them to leave, either, including KwikFill manager Valerie Smith. The convenience store is located near the plant – and a popular place for Philips employees to grab a meal, a snack or chat for a while.
    Today was grim, Smith said.
    “There’ve been a lot of tears,” she said. “A lot of what are we going to do? They’re devastated. There are husbands and wives working there. And they’re saying, ‘It’s up to a year to close. Will I have a job a month?’ They don’t know. They just don’t know.”
    Residents in the Bath area received a one-two punch yesterday when it was made public the railcar firm Bombardier in Kanona could lay off its 35 employees some time within the next few months.
    Those layoffs are a concern, Johnson said.
    However, the rail-related industry is highly cyclical in nature and could pick up again, he said. And if Alstom in Hornell picks up more work, it could carry over to Bombardier, according to Johnson.
    Page 2 of 2 - Wednesday’s news follows a couple of rough months in the area. In late September Sikorsky announced it would close its helicopter plants in Big Flats. The company employs 575 workers. And Corning Inc. recently laid off a 100 workers at its diesel factories, blaming a decrease in demand.

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