FALCONER - In the wake of last week's report that ConAgra Foods will leave the area in 2015, another blow has been delivered to Chautauqua County residents.
RHI Monofrax, located in Falconer, laid off 27 workers Friday. The company has experienced a lull in business as of late, according to multiple sources.
The company has laid off over 70 workers to date, out of over 160. Some of those who were laid off could return to work as soon as next week.
County Executive Vince Horrigan said he had been in contact with Tom Reed, R-Corning, to work on providing more orders for the company.
"Monofrax supports not only glass customers, but they also support the U.S. Department of Energy," Horrigan said.
Reed's connection to the Department of Energy could be instrumental in Monofrax's continuation of business, seeing as how the company provides specialty glass used to line furnaces, and also makes containers used by the government to encase radioactive material at cleanup sites.
"Given the challenges of operating businesses in New York, it is critical that we work together to ensure that RHI Monofrax and other businesses remain viable and actually grow here," Reed said, adding that he is working with RHI managers, local and regional union leaders, as well as local and state officials. "Our workforce is second to none and we will continue to fight for our local workers and products."
Reed also said taking a team approach is important, along with continuing to work with the Department of Energy to ensure timely orders for local products Monofrax manufactures for DOE operations.
"Hopefully, that will help them to keep going," Horrigan said. "We are optimistic that they will be able to regain their orders and bring some of those workers back on."
Daryl Clendenen, president and Monofrax plant manager, said he could not comment on the status of the layoffs as of Tuesday. Clendenen referred The Post-Journal to Randolf Fochler, press secretary for Monofrax, which is based in Austria.
Fochler did not return phone calls.
"We are here to provide assistance and provide help in any way we can to ensure businesses are supported, and jobs are retained," Horrigan said. "That's what we care about most, retaining jobs and creating new jobs."
Furthermore, Horrigan said staying in contact with the company is vital, and that he had also met with Tom Dickerson, Monofrax's union president.
Dickerson did not return calls placed by The Post-Journal.
"I care about job retention and I care about union labor and union presidents," Horrigan said. "We do need to work together."
ConAgra announced last week that both Carriage House operations in Dunkirk and Fredonia will close over the course of the year, at a loss of 425 jobs.
Although Horrigan and other elected officials reached out to ConAgra, the decision was final, with a complete closure date of Feb. 15.
"Sometimes, it's frustrating when you can't get the outcome you want," Horrigan said. "ConAgra was a good example of that, and we were disappointed by the fact that we weren't given any opportunity whatsoever to engage and help them."
Horrigan will speak further on the status of economic development at his State of the County address tonight at 6:30 in the legislative chambers of the Gerace Office Building in Mayville.