New Era Cap Company says it is considering ending operations at its plant in Derby, effective in March. The facility employs more than 200 people.
In a statement issued Tuesday morning, the company says the decision is part of an ongoing effort to move away from owning and operating manufacturing plants, a model more closely aligned with that of New Era's global competitiors.
“This is extremely difficult for me, I grew up in Derby and worked in the facility, which has had a long, productive history with the Company,” said New Era CEO Chris Koch, in a statement. “Even as other sports apparel brands moved away from running their own manufacturing plants, we continued making caps at our facility in Derby. But I have an obligation to our employees, partners and customers to ensure the long-term success of this company and we need to keep pace with changes in our industry.”
Production of hats for Major League Baseball would be shifted to a facility in Florida. The company's headquarters on Delaware Avenue in downtown Buffalo is not affected.
New Era says it has informed the Communication Workers of America of the contemplated decision and will discuss the matter with union leaders in the coming weeks. CWA Local 14177 Staff Representative Erin Bowey says the shutdown is expected to begin in February and wrap up in March.
"We just found out this morning. It's very devastating to all of the employees at the plant. Derby is a very small community and this is the source for a lot of jobs in the area," Bowey said.
Bowey says 192 unionized workers will be out of work due to the shutdown. The company says it is prepared to offer the Derby plant's workers severance and benefits beyond the level required in the current collective bargaining agreement.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he was "very disappointed" to learn of the impending closure. In a statement, he said the announcement took his administration by surprise "because no one from New Era contacted my administration or the Erie County Industrial Development Agency to notify us of this decision or to explore potential ways to keep New Era employees working in Derby."
Poloncarz says he has reached out to Koch directly to see if anything can be done to preserve the plant's jobs.
"I hope there is still time to avoid this outcome and will work with New Era, should they choose to do so, to find a solution that is better for Erie County workers,” he said.