Ardagh Glass: future of plant depends on finding new customers

Ardagh Glass representatives met government officials on 22 July 2014 in a bid to stop the planned closure of the 150-year-old Salem, New Jersey plant, scheduled for 15 October.

Following the meeting to discuss the future of the former Anchor Glass works, State Senate President Stephen Sweeney said the key to saving the plant and its 290 jobs is for Ardagh to find another customer to replace the business that it recently lost.
If it does, New Jersey can step in to “support them to make the site competitive with any other plant in the country.”
The planned closing of the plant on Oct. 15, announced late last Wednesday, sent shock waves through the county. Ardagh is the last glass manufacturing facility in Salem City and one of few left today in the state.
The company cited  “the loss of significant business.”  While Ardagh declined to specify what business was lost, it is widely believed that the company was underbid on a huge contract for making bottles for Snapple products.
Sweeney was one of several city, county, state, and federal representatives who met with local and corporate Ardagh officials at the Griffith Street plant headquarters on Salem.
“What it really comes down to is if the company can find another opportunity, another contract,” the state senator said.
Sweeney said the toll on the workers upsets him.
“I am looking at 290 families and we have got to find a way to make that (keeping the plant open) work.”
Sweeney said the state is poised to do whatever it can to help.
He cited incentive programs included in the recently passed Economic Opportunity Act that could help Ardagh. He also he noted that in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting were representatives from the state’s Business Action Center, a state agency which works not only to recruit new businesses but works to keep current ones operating in New Jersey.
Sweeney said the large group of officials who turned out for the meeting as meant to be a “show of force to let the company know we will do whatever we need to do” to save them.
Several officials who attended the meeting said there was some discussion of even considering the manufacturing of a non-glass container product at the Salem site.
The plant was known for years as Anchor Hocking and later as Anchor Glass before the sale to Ardagh, a European-based company in 2012, by Tampa-Florida-based Anchor Glass.
The current effort by officials to save the glass plant is not the first one.
About a decade ago, when Anchor Glass threatened to close its Salem plant in the fall of 2005, a task force consisting of representatives from the city, county and Third Legislative District put together a package of incentives that was presented to Anchor officials at their Tampa, Florida-based headquarters.
The package included a reassessment of property taxes, an overall assessments of the plant’s energy usage and water and sewerage usage to find ways to conserve, upgrades to the railroad lines that serve the plant. Also, Third District lawmakers crafted legislation that exempted Anchor Glass and other manufacturers in Salem County from paying sales and use taxes on the purchase of natural gas and electricity.
The effort worked and kept the plant, which at that time had 350 employees, open.
Salem Mayor Charles Washington Jr., who was at Tuesday’s meeting, said while Ardagh officials made no firm commitment, there was some optimism that a new customer could be found to keep the Salem plant open.
Washington said last week’s closing announcement had “taken the city by surprise.”
The large turnout of officials “showed our commitment to keeping the plant operating and the people of Salem County employed.
“We are remaining hopefully optimistic that we will be able to help Ardagh continue to operate for another 150 years,” Washington said.
Ardagh is the last glass manufacturing facility in Salem City and one of few left today in the state.
Just last fall the site celebrated its 150th anniversary as the longest continually operating glass manufacturing plant in the U.S.
At the time officials were optimistic about the future.
Also in 2013 Ardagh was awarded a $20 million grant from the Grow NJ Assistance Program through the New Jersey Economic Development Agency which was supposed to have helped the company expand and hire about 70 new workers.
That grant is still available for use if the company stays open, lawmakers said.
Ardagh operates 16 plants in North America, but Salem is the only one targeted for closure at this time, the company said.