The long storied history between the company formerly known as Remington (this latest version is RemArms) is almost inextricably interwoven in the history of the Village of Ilion, New York.
Viewed through the long lens of history, it’s safe to say the relationship has, at best, been checkered.
The nearly one-million square foot facility at 14 Hoefler Avenue in Ilion has been open, closed, bankrupt, bought, and sold more than once since it began making firearms in 1816.
The most recent failure occurred in 2020 when Remington Outdoor Company filed for bankruptcy, laying off nearly 600 employees and halting Ilion operations.
That fall, the Roundhill Group purchased the Remington-branded gun making businesses for $13 million. The business included the shuttered facilities in Ilion and barrel making facilities in Lenoir City, Tennessee. In May 2021, RemArms (the newest version of Remington) put around 230 workers back on the lines in Ilion, making Model 870 shotguns and Model 700 rifles.
Another 2021 announcement told of a planned expansion of RemArms’ and construction of “global headquarters and an advanced manufacturing facility.” The new facilities, however, would be built in Georgia, not New York.
But as has been the case for two centuries, Remington workers in Ilion continued. For many of them, the work was generational. Their fathers, grandfathers and forefathers had worked for Remington.
On or about March 4, 2024, barring something “unforeseen” history will write its final chapter for Ilion.
Last Thursday, RemArms (described as the “current version of Remington Arms” by The Utica Observer-Dispatch) sent a letter to union officials with a short message: “RemArms, LLC (“the Company”) has decided to close its entire operation at 14 Hoefler Avenue, Ilion, New York 13357 (“the Ilion Facility”).
The letter goes on to tell the union “The Company expects that operations at the Ilion Facility will conclude on or about March 4, 2024.”
It’s bitter consolation for the 270 or so employees that the announcement adds “The Company did not arrive at this decision lightly.”
For the Ilion employees, it’s a message everyone has dreaded, but few likely doubted would one day arrive.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t the usual angry responses from both Herkimer County and Village of Ilion’s elected officials and the United Mine Workers.
The chairman of the Herkimer County Legislature, Vincent Bono, told the Observer-Dispatch the loss of revenues to the entire community “will have concerning effects going forward for the progress of Ilion and Herkimer County.”
UMW International President Cecil E. Roberts called the closure announcement “disappointing” and the timing before the holidays “a slap in the face.”
“Workers in Ilion,” Roberts’ statement said, “enabled RemArms to rise from the ashes of Remington Arms bankruptcy in 2020-21. Without these workers…this company simply would not exist.”
That might be true. But Roberts ignores a political climate in New York that’s neither welcoming nor conducive to locating any firearms-related company there.
Republican legislators in the area were quick to point that out, releasing a statement that said:
“Unfortunately, like we have seen all too often in New York, burdensome regulations, crippling taxes and problematic energy and other policies continue to force businesses and companies to flee the state, taking jobs and livelihoods with them. We will continue to communicate with state and federal officials and work to help and assist the company’s employees and their families during this difficult times.”
Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-21) was somewhat more pointed in placing blame for the RemArms decision -and suggesting a remedy that will certainly irk most in the states political leadership. “It is because of New York Democrats’ unconstitutional gun grab policies that the oldest gun manufacturer in the country has been run out of the state,” Stefanik’s statement reads, “I have spoken with local officials and Remington Arms union members in the United Mine Workers of America, Local 717, about how we must stand up to New York’s failed unconstitutional gun bans.”
Politically speaking, Stefanik’s not wrong. But there are other considerations RemArms cited while describing the “challenges” to operating in Ilion. Those include everything from the need for excessive handling of product and materials due to the plant’s layers, expenses of running a steam plant -and paying the associated natural gas and utility costs- for almost a million square feet of space (much of which is unused), and high and unexpected costs for maintenance and insurance.
RemArms letter also mentions “an environment in Georgia that supports and welcomes the firearms industry.”
That points out the biggest fallacy in pro-manufacturing arguments in the states that form the manufacturing area of the east coast that was once described as “gun valley.”
Politicians and labor officials bemoan every potential loss of jobs and attendant tax revenues, but continue to pass legislation designed to punish those same companies. It’s a disconnect that has finally begun too-much for companies to ignore.
As expected, government and union officials vow to continue to use all legal means to keep the union jobs “where they belong, in Ilion, New York.”
As always, we’ll keep you posted.
— Jim Shepherd