PLATTSBURGH - After Pfizer Inc. announced its plans to close three local facilities Nov. 9, it took less than a day for a plan to be formed.
The Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce worked to put together the Pfizer Transition Coordinating Council. The group consists of more than 20 local and state government leaders, the North Country Regional Workforce Investment Board, the chamber, and many other entities, with more anticipated to join. The group held its first meeting Nov. 10.
"I can tell you the conversation was entirely productive," said chamber president Garry C. Douglas. "We didn't spend an hour-and-a-half wringing our hands. Didn't spend an hour-and-a-half beating up on 'woe be us,' or 'darn somebody didn't do something.' We focused immediately on the task at hand in a positive and determined way."
One of the priorities of the council is to "maximize the assistance and support for the impacted employees and their families," Douglas explained. Aside from the usual assistance such as unemployment insurance, the committee is looking into other resources that may be able to help.
The group is also defining the community impact of the facility closures, including property taxes, and sewage and water use.
Economic development and marketing is another task at hand for the council.
"We have reasons to feel good ... as economic developers, because of the quality of the facilities, the quality of the workforce, the quality of the location and the support systems of this community," said Douglas.
During the council's meeting, Pfizer agreed to collaborate with the committee in marketing the facilities.
"We were able to lay the groundwork for turning things around with the Wyeth closure four years ago," Douglas said. "We can't promise that kind of outcome, but this morning started a partnership of the entire council team, with Pfizer, going forward to devise and pursue and engage in the very best and most aggressive possible marketing effort."
David F. Champagne III, managing director of Pfizer's manufacturing site in Rouses Point, assured the closure of the facilities was taken very seriously by Pfizer.
"It is part of a global restructuring," he explained, "after the Pfizer and Wyeth acquisition. And, you should know that Pfizer still has a large presence in New York State."
Champagne also took the time to clarify when each of the facilities will be closed.
The operation division of the animal research division, located in Chazy, will be closed by mid-year 2010, with the "decommissioning activities" happening by the end of 2010.
"We also have a small operation in the PARC facility here in Plattsburgh who does clinical supply and packaging," Champagne said. "We have an extended lease with them, so we'll be working with that base to close that facility over the course of the coming months."
The chemical pilot facility in Rouses Point will be shut down by the end of 2010.
Chazy Town Supervisor Staub G. Spiegel will chair the transition council.
"Obviously, we're facing a very difficult situation. Something brand new to Chazy," Spiegel said. "I know we're going to work hard together to make a very negative, a very positive."
"I'm confident in the next few months, we're going to come here and rejoice, because I really feel that something good is going to come out of this," he added. "'There's a reason for everything,' they say, and we're going to find out what this one is."
Plattsburgh Town Supervisor Bernard C. Bassett said as time goes on, the "ripple effect" of the closures will be identified.
"The impact of taking millions of dollars out of the local economy is going to be felt by a waitress at one of our restaurants when that table is empty," said Bassett. "We can't let that happen. We're not going to."
Bassett also feels the facility's highly-skilled and trained workforce will be a "desirable" asset when marketing.
Champagne said Pfizer is currently putting together a program that may offer a limited number of employees the option to transfer.