"I Feel Like A Family Member Has Died": Small New York Town Devastated As Gun Plant Shuts Down

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Dec 25, 2023 - 08:00 PM

Authored by Allan Stein via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

In the village of Ilion, New York, 80 miles west of the state capital in Albany, residents are mourning the departure of gunmaker Remington Arms Co. after two centuries of continuous operation.

The Remington Arms Co. manufacturing plant in Ilion, N.Y., on Dec. 11, 2023. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

Without fanfare, the company announced last month that the manufacturing plant would be closing its doors on March 4, 2024.

"I feel like a family member has died," Ilion Mayor John Stephens told The Epoch Times. "My dad raised four kids on a paycheck from there for 37 years. He walked to work and carried his lunch every day."

Mr. Stephens said no one expected the announcement a week after Thanksgiving that the plant was set to close.

On Nov. 30, at 3:26 p.m., the company notified village officials of the decision by email. The message noted that "all separations" with the village would be completed by March 18, 2024.

Likewise, the company notified its 270 employees that they would soon be out of a job.

"They brought the second and third shifts in and said they were done," Mr. Stephens said. "They notified the first shift in person. I found out through the media. The owner's group didn't even contact me."

Mr. Stephens said the company made the announcement just five months into a newly ratified employee union contract.

"To say we were shocked [by the announcement] is probably an understatement," the mayor told Ilion's Village Board of Trustees at a public meeting on Dec. 11.

John Stephens, mayor of the village of Ilion, holds up a document from Remington Arms during a village board of trustees meeting in Ilion, N.Y., on Dec. 11, 2023. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

"In my opinion, it's unfortunate and extremely unprofessional."

Remington Arms didn't return messages from The Epoch Times asking for comment.

Publicly, the company attributed the plant closure in part to a hostile political climate in Albany regarding firearms production.

"I am writing to inform you that RemArms LLC has decided to close its entire operation at 14 Hoefler Avenue, NY 13357," Remington Arms said in a letter to employees. "The company expects that operations at the Ilion facility will conclude on or about March 4, 2024."

The Georgia-based company said it would continue to make firearms at its facility in Huntsville, Alabama, which opened in 2014, a year after New York's passage of the Safe Act, which created stricter gun laws.

The anti-gun political climate in Democrat-controlled Massachusetts prompted competitor Smith & Wesson to move from its longtime base in Springfield to Maryville, Tennessee. The company announced the opening of its new headquarters there in October.

In Ilion, the community reaction to the Remington plant closure has been a sense of loss and bewilderment, Mr. Stephens said.

Many are wondering what will become of the 10,000-square-foot plant and the village's Remington identity.

Attendees look at a display of Remington shotguns during the NRA annual meeting, in Dallas, Texas, on May 5, 2018. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Mr. Stephens said residents see the two as synonymous, interwoven by history, culture, and economics.

"Remington is Ilion—Ilion is Remington," residents here like to say.

Eric Kennedy, who runs the Copper Cafe in the downtown village retail plaza, believes the ripple effect of the closure would impact the businesses that served Remington employees for years to come.

"I'm sure it will affect us. Any time you lose jobs, it affects the area's economy. It definitely will hurt the economy—small town, big business in the village. It's going to hurt a lot of families," Mr. Kennedy told The Epoch Times.

"New York state is not friendly to hunters and sportsmen. That makes a big impact. I don't blame [Remington] for moving out of state, [but] it's going to hurt."

Until recently, Remington Arms employed about 1,500 workers, whose wages helped support the local retail economy, said village public historian Mike Disotelle.

"At noontime, when the employees would go to lunch, there would be a flood of factory employees going to local businesses," he said.

Mr. Disotelle said Remington Arms was one of the village's largest employers and a centerpiece of the downtown economy. This remained true even as the village continued to lose residents over the course of several decades, he said.

In 1960, the village had 10,000 residents. Today, that number is down to about 7,700 and could drop below 6,500 by 2030 due to the slow economy, high taxes, and limited housing availability, Mr. Disotelle said.

Historian Mike Disotelle goes over documents in his office in Ilion, N.Y., on Dec. 11, 2023. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

Village officials said Remington Arms' departure would cost the village nearly $1 million in yearly revenues.

Mr. Disotelle said the village would need a "savior" to breathe new life into the facility. A federal gun manufacturing operation is one possibility.

"You're always going to need to manufacture firearms," he said. "The problem is New York state has created unfriendly legislation. The taxes are high. That's why a lot of people have pulled out. We're not a business-friendly state anymore.

"It would be nice if our politicians could get something going."

Founded by Eliphalet Remington II in 1816, the family-run business was known as E. Remington and Sons before the sporting goods chain Marcus Hartley and Partners in Connecticut purchased the gunmaker in 1888.

"It was called a receivership," Mr. Disotelle said of the acquisition by Marcus Hartley. "Technically, it was a bankruptcy. Not many people know about that. They know of the bankruptcies in recent years."

Remington sold the company to chemical manufacturer Dupont in 1933. The New York investment company Clayton, Dubilier, and Rice purchased the company from Dupont half a century later.

The gunmaker continued to change hands despite the successful introduction of new products and millions in accumulated debt.

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