New York Air Brake ending manufacturing operations in Watertown, 125 jobs affected

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 4:20 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - New York Air Brake, a 130-year-old Watertown manufacturer, announced Wednesday it’s terminating about 125 of its 400 employees over the next several months.

The company says it’s opening a new facility in Mexico while realigning work at other U.S. plants.

“It’s emotional for everybody,” president and CEO President & CEO said. “I mean, it is family. I know it doesn’t come across that way if you’re on the other end of the news.”

Camilo says the decision was made because a lot of clients have moved to Mexico and one of its competitors has a plant south of the border, too.

“For us to produce in upstate New York and ship across that border and try to integrate more closely with our customers is unsustainable for us,” he said.

The first phase of layoffs will happen around January 10 and the second phase will be around March 14. The cuts include both hourly and salaried workers.

Assemblyman Mark Walczyk says losing that many jobs is devastating, and he wants to help those who are hurt by the situation.

“And I’ll be doing whatever I can to make a more friendly business environment in New York, so this doesn’t continue to happen,” Walczyk said.

As for the 125 workers losing their jobs, Cheryl Mayforth with the Jefferson County WorkPlace says other major manufacturers in the area are calling her hoping to hire these laid off workers.

Camilo says he intends on keeping the other 275 jobs in Watertown, but they might have a new role.

“What’s remaining is going to be some specialty machining and potentially a new manufacturing opportunity in terms of brake discs for transit,” Camilo said.

The company says it is going to introduce a new rail disc brake product line, and while no decision has been made on where that product will be built, employees were told Wednesday that if it were to be placed in Watertown, it wouldn’t replace all the jobs being lost.

State Sen. Patti Ritchie wants to keep as many jobs in Watertown as possible, saying she’s “committed to having discussions with the company in the near future to see what can be done to protect the jobs that remain locally.”

The following is the news release from New York Air Brake:

New York Air Brake LLC (NYAB), a global manufacturer of innovative train control systems for the railroad industry, today announced a realignment strategy for its North American manufacturing operations. Among the actions, NYAB will launch production in Acuña, Mexico, and shift capacity and production scope at three U.S.-based NYAB facilities: Salisbury, North Carolina; Nixa, Missouri; and Kansas City, Missouri. The company will also complete a substantial manufacturing refocus in Watertown to become a machining operation.

New York Air Brake executives shared news of the plan at meetings with employees today. In order to minimize disruption to customers, the phased transition across North America will begin in the fourth quarter of 2021 and is expected to end by the close of 2022. The company employs nearly 400 workers at its location on Starbuck Avenue in Watertown. The shift of manufacturing impacts approximately 125 Watertown-based jobs, commencing at a date to be confirmed in early 2022.

“New York Air Brake is a global company operating in an ever-changing global marketplace. Throughout our history, this business has successfully evolved its manufacturing approach to better serve our customers,” said Ulisses Camilo, New York Air Brake President and CEO. “Our strategic direction for manufacturing has long been to capitalize on our locations and core competencies, always aiming to align production closer to the point of final assembly.”

He noted that over 70% of NYAB’s freight OE clients are producing railcars in Mexico – a number that continues to climb.

Camilo added, “The accelerated pace of globalization is a factor that places greater delivery pressure throughout the business. Our footprint in Mexico is a crucial connecting point in our North America growth plan. While Watertown manufacturing operations will see the greatest impact, the site is and has been the heart of our business for over 130 years. That will not change. We will remain a committed and active corporate citizen in the Watertown community and Jefferson County at large.”

Sharing today’s news with the workforce provides as much notice as possible to assist affected employees with this transition.

“Supporting our own is a responsibility on which we simply will not waver. We will take action to help support our affected employees as they take their next career step. This includes a severance and benefits package and job placement services. Over the coming weeks and months, we will actively work with outplacement and governmental agencies to begin that process,” said Camilo.

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