September 21, 2009

A Eulogy for Cheshire

By Paul Bieber

This is an odd blog. I lost an old friend this past week. The passing was quite unexpected, but then again, I hadn’t seen the reports prior to the death announcment. Oldcastle Glass announced the closing of their plant in Cheshire, CT., which was one of the plants I was involved with for twenty years at Floral Glass, and then with Oldcastle Glass.

This one hit home with me. This is not some statistic. I hired or promoted many of the people there, worked with them, praised them, and when necessary, took them to the wood shed. It was a simple plant, back in the day. Our parent plant provided a lot of their material, and they did a good job redistributing tempered and making IG. They were a dominent force in southern New England, more based on the personality of the players than on the glass pricing and service levels. This was a plant based on people’s interactions with customers.

And yet, things must change, must move on. Oldcastle Glass invested heavily in this plant, placing a modern tempering line and handling equipment there. They upgraded the computers, and trained folks in the Oldcastle Glass systems. So, with great people, and new equipment, what happened?

Damned if I know. Oldcastle Glass does not have me on their speed dial list any more. They didn’t ask my permission to close this plant. In fact, they probably blamed me somehow. Such is life. The scuttlebut I heard was that the profitablitly of the plant just wasn’t there, and the number crunchers had to make a tough decision.

I hope this was a tough decision. I hope they considered the forty or so families that this impacted. I hope they debated this for quite a while in the home office, maybe came up with ideas to hold on somehow. I guess, in the long run, they didn’t come up with that magic idea that would change the economy around Cheshire, CT. There was on going conversations with a local union and this might have had some impact. Who knows. We are not supposed to know. America is based on private enterprise, and Oldcastle Glass has to do what is in the best interest of their stockholders. It is just that I knew these people who lost their jobs.

If you are in the glass industry in central Connecticut, keep your eyes open for a lot of good employees who are looking for work. Dig around, they are there, and are really good people.