Cuts Threaten Two Upstate Communities

Mar 28, 2014

General Electric has announced that it will delay the closure of its Ford Edward capacitor manufacturing plant until early 2015.  Meanwhile, federal budget cuts could have an impact on jobs at an upstate nuclear plant.

General Electric in September announced that it would close and cease production of capacitors at a facility in Fort Edward, New York. Under a labor agreement, GE said it would not transfer capacitor manufacturing to a new plant in Clearwater, Florida until one year after the announced closure.

GE confirmed that it recently told employees at the Fort Edward plant, which employs about 200 skilled workers, that the closure will begin in early 2015.

GE Energy Management spokesman Dan Nelson said, "the transfer of work is expected to being in the first quarter of 2015, which is January through March. As we've mentioned before when we announced the closure of Fort Edward it would start no sooner than September 2014."

GE has said the Fort Edward facility has been losing money for several years.

Since the announcement of the closure, United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America, the union representing the employees, along with local officials had tried to get General Electric to change its mind and keep the plant open, but to no avail. After a 60-day bargaining period ending in November, GE said even with the cuts and efficiencies proposed by the union, it would not match the savings associated with operating at its Clearwater plant.

Layoffs had been expected to begin in September, 2014.

Union spokesman Gene Elk said the delay offers temporary relief to workers, but he added that GE may have a difficult time replacing workers with the skills used to produce capacitors.

"We think it's not going to be an easy task for GE to replace the skills of our members, and quite frankly we don't wish them well in doing so," said Elk.

State Senator Betty Little of Queensbury offered her thoughts on the closure after it was announced that the cuts would begin in 2015.

"We have a good plant, we have good workers that produce a good product, and I really would like to see GE continue it there, although so far, the people that I've talked to, it has not made a difference."

Meanwhile, federal budget cuts could threaten to shut down one of the two prototype nuclear reactors at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory's’ Kesselring Site in West Milton, New York, used to train members of the U.S. Navy in nuclear propulsion used in submarines and aircraft carriers.

Bechtel Marine, through a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy and Navy, operates KAPL.

An emailed statement from KAPL spokesperson Gene Terwillinger addressed cuts in the 2014 federal budget, saying:

“The Federal Consolidated Appropriations Act was enacted and resulted in an approximately $151M reduction to the NNPP's funding target. KAPL estimates that $24 million is needed to avoid shuting down the Prototype. If additional funding is not provided the Prototype will be shut down in 2015 and remain safely shut down until operating and maintenance funds can be secured.”

The statement said there are 700 Navy and civilian personnel assigned to the MARF prototype reactor.

Capital Region Congressman Paul Tonko, along with Congressmen Bill Owens of Northern New York, have announced their intention to secure the necessary funding to prevent the halt of any operations at the West Milton site.

Tonko, in a statement, says the project “is critical to local economies in the Capital Region” and that he plans to work with representatives of both parties in Washington to secure the funding.