Shooting lawsuit leads to closure of historic Remington rifle factory

Remington began here two centuries ago and generations of workers made rifles and shotguns herea huge weapons factory in the middle of this working-class town in the heart of New York’s Mohawk Valley.

Well, the residents of Ilion Prepare for Remington’s departurethe end of an era that began when Eliphalet Remington forged his first rifle barrel Closed in 1816.

He oldest weapons manufacturer in the country recently announced plans to close the factory at the company’s original headquarters early next month, citing the historic facility’s high operating costs. Remington consolidates its activities in Georgia, a state the company says is friendly to the firearms industry.

The company’s recent history has been marked by litigation following the Sandy Hook school massacre and bankruptcy filings that led to a new owner of the Ilion plant, where the workforce has declined to about 300 from about 1,300 a decade ago.

But the movement is still hurting the city of 7,600, which faces impending catastrophe Dramatic loss of income and an empty, expanding factory.

“If Remington leaves, it won’t be like a factory leaving, it’ll be like part of your family moving away,” said Jim Conover, who started packing guns at Remington in 1964 and 40 years later Production manager retired. .

Weapons manufacturing dominates and defines Ilion. It is as intertwined with the city as automobile production is with Detroit.

Mayor John Stephens meets with members of the village board under a seal showing Eliphalet Remington with a long gun. The four-story brick factory at Armory Street and Remington Avenue towers over the community about 55 miles (90 kilometers) east of Syracuse.

They all work in the weapons factory

Everyone knows someone who worked at the plant. For some families, employment there is practically a birthright. Conover’s father and sons also worked at the plant. Furnace operator and technician Frank “Rusty” Brown was there earlier this year with members of his family.

“My mother worked there. My father worked there. My wife works there with me now. My daughter now works there with me. My second daughter now works there with me. And my son-in-law works there,” said Brown, president of United Mine Workers of America Local 717. “That’s how it is.” a double whammy for me and my wife: two of us without jobs.”

They go to Georgia in search of support

The current owners of Remington Firearms, RemArms, blamed this “Production inefficiencies” in a Nov. 30 letter to union officials in favor of closing the plant. They cited the high cost of maintaining and securing about 92,903 square feet of space in several buildings, many of which date back to World War I.

RemArms added that Georgia offers an environment that is “more supportive and welcoming to the firearms industry.”

CEO Ken D’Arcy also said in a press release that the industry is concerned about the “legislative environment” in New York.

Some believe that Remington is moving primarily south Reduce operational and labor costs.

The Gun Control Debate

But in an area of ​​upstate New York where support for gun rights tends to be strong, some Republican elected officials seized on the company’s Georgia comment. They linked the plant’s closure to gun control measures advocated by New York metropolitan Democrats in recent years.

Remington is not the first gun manufacturer to advocate for the creation of a more gun-friendly state.

Smith & Wesson opened its new Tennessee headquarters in October after being based in Springfield, Massachusetts, since 1852. When the company announced the move in 2021, company officials criticized proposed state legislation that would supposedly ban 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 suspend operations at the facility around March 4. The company had already announced in 2021 that it would move its headquarters to LaGrange, Georgia and open a factory and research operation there.

Gone are the days of Every afternoon traffic jams in Ilion, when the day shifts ended. Empty spaces dominate the factory’s large parking lot. Nearby businesses that deliver lunch to the plant, such as Franco’s Pizza, have already seen a dramatic decline in orders.

“They relaxed,” said Franco’s owner Daniel Mendez. “It won’t necessarily put us out of business, but it hurts.”

A cost of a million dollars

Stephens believes the remaining workers in the area can find other work. But he also estimates that the loss of the facility could cost the village nearly $1 million annually, including utility and tax payments.

Local officials hope the plant site can accommodate a mix of manufacturing, retail and residential units. But his fate remains unclear. It was listed for sale last month for $10 million.

“Things can quickly become an eyesore,” said Michael Disotelle, a historian at the Ilion Public Library. “And being in the middle of the city like that, you can’t just leave it alone.”

The History of the Remington Factory

The factory’s current location dates back to 1828, when Eliphalet Remington located its operations on the newly opened Erie Canal. Although weapons were historically Ilion’s primary product, Remington also manufactured typewriters, sewing machines, and other consumer products.

Cerberus Capital Management bought Remington Arms in 2007, putting it in the same family of companies as Bushmaster Firearms and other gun companies. Bushmaster Firearms temporarily relocated its manufacturing facilities to Ilion in 2011.

Remington Outdoor Co. and its subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy in 2018, citing declining sales and legal and financial pressure afterward Sandy Hook School shooting 20 first graders and six adults were killed. A Bushmaster AR-15 rifle was used in the massacre.

Relatives of the victims and a shooting survivor, who filed a lawsuit against Remington in 2015, settled for $73 million in 2022.

A second bankruptcy filing was filed in July 2020. Within a few months, 545 workers at the Ilion plant were laid off.

The company’s assets were auctioned off. A judge approved Vista Outdoor’s $81.4 million offer for Remington’s ammunition and accessories business. The Ilion plant was purchased by an investor group called the Roundhill Group in a $13 million deal.

After months of union negotiations, the firearms factory reopened in spring 2021. If RemArms meets its March closure plan, The resumption in Ilion will have taken almost three years.

The mayor said there were difficult decisions ahead but he was confident the site would be used again. And while Remington might leave, he said the connection could never be completely severed.

“Even when they finally stop being 100% involved in the Village of Ilion in some way, we will still be known for it,” Stephens said. “You can’t erase history.”

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