SILVER CREEK - In light of Thursday's bombshell news of Petri's closing, several residents attended Monday's Silver Creek Village Board meeting to get answers.
Mayor Kurt Lindstrom skipped the public comment portion of the meeting in order to address the mass layoff at the village's biggest employer.
Lindstrom read a letter from Petri's Director of Operations David Bagwell which described the closing of the plant at 18 Main St. as laying off 232 employees over several months.
OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino
County Legislator George Borrello (right) explained at Monday’s Silver Creek Village Board meeting, officials at many different levels of government are working out options after the announcement of the closure of the Petri’s plant.
He said the board would not comment on the closure because of ongoing discussions. However, he did make one remark on the topic.
"The closing of Petri Baking Products is not and was not as a result of this village board," he said.
Lindstrom then handed the discussion over to County Legislator George Borrello who explained he had contacted ConAgra after hearing of the sale of Ralcorp.
"When the announcement was made that ConAgra would be purchasing Ralcorp, I reached out to ConAgra. I got a response back from a person in their government and legal affairs division in Washington D.C. I basically spoke to him about our community, the importance of the jobs not only at Petri but also at Carriage House facility and our willingness as a county and a community to work with them not only to keep these facilities here but also to expand them. The reaction I got was positive," he explained.
He said there were hints from Ralcorp on the closing which coincided with denials.
"I think the unanticipated part of this is Ralcorp during process of whatever due diligence that they are doing decided to proceed in closing the facilities ... We certainly expected it from a stand point of Ralcorp, there were signs they were being disingenuous with us. When ConAgra came into the picture I think that is when I and many others thought that was going to change," he added.
Borrello said the silver lining to the situation is now everyone knows where Ralcorp really stands, so that work toward some solution can be done. In that vein, Borrello said a range of officials from the county IDA to Lt. Governor Robert Duffy's office are working on options for the plant.
"There are some options out there that we are exploring ... there are things going on actively right now to see what we can do to change this. There are other options afterward ... which will be available at some point once they decide what they are going to do with the plant. Are they going to leave the facility intact and try to sell it? Are they going to disassemble it? We don't know the answers to those questions," he said.
Borrello said the best option would be to have another cookie manufacturer step in and restart production at the plant. He said this is something the team of officials is working on facilitating when the time comes.
Silver Creek resident Nancy Clees asked Borrello what the highest-taxed village in the county will be able to offer potential buyers.
He responded saying the county and the IDA has a good track record for attracting international manufacturing companies and maintaining others as was the case with REM-tronics.
"The bottom line is, yes, New York state is a difficult place to do business, there's no question about that, but in Chautauqua County we're a lot more eager to bring people in and keep them here than in other parts of the state. We have to deal with all the challenges, whether it's regulations, taxes to whatever else, but business is done here and will continue to be done here ... We're not going to give up. We are going to do what we can to turn things around or find someone else to operate it," he explained.