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Poloncarz blasts New Era for layoffs as federal subsidies run out

New Era

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is blasting New Era for the layoffs announced by the sports cap company one day after its federal jobs subsidies ran out.

The company had previously fired 200 workers when it closed its plant in Derby and moved production to a non-union factory in Florida. The company is now laying off 117 workers in its downtown Buffalo headquarters, roughly one-third of the staff in the former Federal Reserve Bank complex on Delaware Avenue.

Poloncarz suggested the company name should come off the football stadium in Orchard Park.

"I still call it Ralph Wilson Stadium. I'm a little disappointed in the way New Era's treated our community," he said. "That company would not exist without the hard work of the people of this community. Yes, the Koch family is the owners and started it and I understand. But the people who worked there from this community since day one put their sweat and tears into that community, including those that worked in the facility in Derby that were laid off."

Poloncarz said he has not talked to New Era CEO Chris Koch about these layoffs, although he did talk to him after the Derby closing.

"After seeing everything that we've dealt with in New Era, whenever we have negotiations on the stadium, I don't believe we are going to give stadium naming rights to any Bills organization that can sell them and then have an organization treat our community as poorly as New Era did," he said. "Their name should no longer be on the stadium if they're are going to continue to lay off our employees and say, 'Sorry.'"

The county executive lived through the Bethlehem Steel closings in his hometown of Lackawanna and compares the effects on workers to what New Era is doing.

"I'm sure members of the business community will be mad at me, saying, 'Oh, you should never criticize a local company, no matter what they do.' Well, the hell with that," Poloncarz said. "I lived in Lackawanna. I watched what happened with Bethlehem Steel and the decimation of our community. That company's not like Bethlehem Steel, but for those 117 people that are losing their jobs, that were expecting to go back to work as things were picking back up, that can be pretty devastating."

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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