Monday, February 13, 2012

There Are No Knights in Shining Armor-A Modern Fairy Fale

Once upon a time, there was a village called Endicott, in Upstate New York.

Endicott was named after Henry Endicott, who founded the Endicott Shoe Company and eventually made an employee, George F. Johnson, a partner.  Endicott-Johnson Corporation thrived.  And when the boom days of Endicott-Johnson were coming to a close, IBM took up the slack.  All was well, until IBM dwindled.

So did Endicott, which is now old, tired, decayed, and less of a nice place every year.

But now comes a knight in shining armor-maybe.

In September of 2011, Tropical Storm Lee dumped over 11 inches of rain on our area in just one day.  The already soggy ground from an incredibly rainy year couldn't bear any more, and floods resulted.  One building that flooded was a 640,000. sq foot manufacturing facility in Westover, just west of Johnson City, NY, leased by BAE Systems,occupied by some 1600 employees.  They are one of the major employers of our area.

In November, BAE determined the Westover building could not be salvaged.

In the meantime, part of their operation had moved to - ironically, buildings that were once occupied by IBM, in Endicott. (Endicott is just a few miles west of Westover.)  There were no buildings large enough for the entire operation, so they moved into 8 buildings on what is now called the Huron Campus.  But not everyone is in Endicott.  Some employees (I understand) are on furlough.  Some have returned (temporarily) to the Westover facility.  I've been told they must vacate by February 28.

BAE has committed to staying within 35 miles of Westover but....where?  640,000 sq ft buildings are not common here.

I had been told the announcement of relocation would be made no later than February 10, but it didn't come to pass. yesterday's paper the front page article was an article which turned out to be pure speculation.  What if BAE stayed in Endicott?  It sure would be nice to have a revival of Endicott.  Like in those good old days.

Yes, but.

There just aren't any corporate knights in shining armor any more.  No one employer is going to come and sweep Endicott back into the arms of prosperity.  And to me it was more than a bit annoying for our paper to publish that article before BAE had made that kind of committment.  Which it hasn't.

In fact, the longer it takes for this announcement: my imagination is working overtime and I wonder if BAE is going to go back on the promises it made back in November.  I truly don't think they are going to find a building suitable for them within 35 miles of the ruined Westover plant.  Much of their corporate culture (an educated guess here) is based on everyone being in the same building.  They don't want to be spread between 8 or even more buildings.  Corporate culture dies hard.

I'm also told (informally, by at least one person who used to work for IBM) those buldings in Endicott, some of which were vacant for years, aren't in that great shape.

BAE is going to think their operation deserves better.  The longer this process takes, the higher the possibility, I believe, that BAE is going to relocate somewhere outside this area.

1600 jobs were swept downstream on that waterlogged September 8.  We just didn't know it yet.

No one is going to live happily-ever-after.


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