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New Era closing is same old story: tax breaks ending, cheaper non-union workers

Mike Desmond
New Era's Derby manufacturing plant

Evans Supervisor Mary Hosler says she would like to talk to New Era CEO Chris Koch to see what might be done to help workers who will lose their jobs in the closing the Derby cap manufacturing plant. The closing comes as the company only this year used up its tax benefits and tax breaks to be liable for full property taxes on the facility.

It's a heavy hit for a heavily rural town to see 219 good-paying, unionized jobs going away. The supervisor says the company doesn't seem to be returning phone calls to anyone, citing her efforts as well as calls from the governor's office and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

"New Era is such a homegrown success story that its name now adorns the professional football stadium owned by the people of Erie County," Poloncarz said in a statement. "As such, the announcement of the closure took my 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."

On the company website, New Era talks about its first manufacturing plant, "located in a rented back room on Genesee Street in Buffalo until 1932." Today, it has locations around the world.

This year, the plant is scheduled to pay $40,000 in town and county taxes for which it's still liable. Hosler says she sees a pattern in what New Era is doing.          

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Evans Supervisor Mary Hosler says New Era's closing is a pattern

"They closed the Buffalo plant to go to Alabama. Now, they closed the Alabama because they unionized," Hosler said. "Now they are taking this workforce and these jobs and taking it down to a non-unionized workshop."

Christopher Tucker says it's the times.

"It's unfortunate. I think it's a sign of times," Tucker says. "I think that the outsourcing in the country is not that great and I think that New Era has to keep up with the times. Its competitors, I believe Nike and Armour, are going overseas for their product."

Evans Councilman Michael Schraft says there will be economic hits on local businesses used by New Era workers as the plant shuts down.

"The non-financial hit's big and the financial hit's big, but when I think about 219 people losing their jobs 45 days before the holidays, it's not very easy," Schraft says, "and they have also been in the town since 1961. So over 50 years. So they're a staple in the community and it's sad to see them closing the doors."

The company says it is maintaining its headquarters in downtown Buffalo, with nearly 400 workers.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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