Jarden Plastic Solutions will close its cutlery and straw plant in Tupper Lake, N.Y., cutting 70 jobs at one of the few manufacturing operations in the area, located in the middle of the Adirondack Mountains.
The firm will consolidate some of the work at its other U.S. cutlery plant, a highly automated site in East Wilton, Maine, that runs 50 injection molding machines. No information was available on how many injection presses are at Tupper Lake.
Jarden Plastic Solutions also molds plastic cutlery in China. Its parent, Jarden Corp., picked up a plant in Dongguan in 2005, when it bought Holmes Group Inc., maker of Crock-Pot, Rival and other brands of small appliances, fans and air purifiers.
A company spokeswoman said Jarden is importing some Chinese-made cutlery, but produces the majority in the United States.
Injection molding of plastic forks, knives and spoons is an intensely competitive, price-sensitive business. In a news release about the Tupper Lake closing, Jarden Plastic Solutions President Chuck Villa cited cost pressures.
``It is important for Jarden Plastic Solutions to take full advantage of low-cost manufacturing in order to produce plastic cutlery with a competitive cost structure.
While it was a difficult decision, we have determined that closing the Tupper Lake facility will allow our company to more effectively leverage existing overhead expenses,'' he said.
Jarden will close the plant May 18, the spokeswoman said.
The news hit hard in the town of 5,300, where the factory is located right next to the town hall. Local government leaders are trying to keep cutlery molding in the area, where disposable dishware has been made for more than 90 years - first from wood by Oval Wood Dish Co., then later from injection molded plastic.
State Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, said officials are checking to see if they can secure work for Jarden molding tableware for the state prison system, possibly in a new, more-modern building. Little said she talked to Villa as rumors flew before the official announcement. State and local officials want to meet with Jarden executives.
Villa was not available for comment.
``It's a real blow to the area,'' Little said. ``It's not a growing area.''
Tupper Lake, near Saranac Lake, is a tourist area. For manufacturing, the town offers low-priced electricity. On the other hand, the remote setting also makes transportation costs high, especially with high gas prices. Albany is 150 miles away.
``With the hauling costs and the price of diesel, you can see that the margin gets very thin,'' Little said. ``They're hauling the plastic pellets into Tupper Lake and then making the cutlery and hauling the cutlery back out to customers.''
Disposable bowls, dishes and cutlery have deep roots in Tupper Lake. According to town history, executives of Oval Wood Dish, then located in Michigan, vacationed in Tupper Lake, where they learned about the region's rich timber resources. In 1918, Oval Wood Dish moved to Tupper Lake, setting up a factory employing 500 people. The company ended production of wooden dishes in 1945, although it still made items such as the small wooden spoons used in single-serve ice cream and wooden coffee stirs.
In 1964, an executive, Roger Sullivan, bought the Woodware Division and began making plastic cutlery. Sullivan sold the company, then called O.W.D. Inc., to Jarden in 2003.
When Jarden bought O.W.D., it employed 125 people, making the Lady Dianne brand of cutlery.