Updated 08/24/2012 07:17 AM
New Process Gear facility in DeWitt closes for good after 124 years of business
After more than a century in business, a DeWitt auto parts factory is closed for good, leaving nearly 400 people unemployed. Thursday evening, the workers left the only place many of them have ever worked, for the last time, carrying with them decades of memories. Our Candace Hopkins has more.
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DEWITT, N.Y. -- Emotions were running high Thursday evening as the employees of the New Process Gear factory in DeWitt said their final goodbyes.
"Everyone here did the best they could," said 18-year employee Phil Mackay. "My dad had been there 40 years, and when I got a job there, I just thought I'd retire when I was 53 and a half, that's not the case anymore, that's just the way things are," said Mackay.
Phil Mackay is just one of the dozens of employees who say working at New Process Gear was a family affair, filled with decades of pride in their jobs.
"You just enjoyed going to work everyday, knowing that you could make a decent wage, and buy that house you wanted and send your kids to school," said Mackay.
At one point the facility employed thousands of people, but layoffs over time whittled the staff down. For the employees like Corre Williams, watching the slow decline was painful.
"It's hard coming in a place knowing that you're closing soon, and you've done all you can for a company and they still put out, from being a company that's been here 124 years, survived the Great Depression," said Williams.
But Thursday's closure was anything but sudden. Three years ago, the United Autoworkers turned down contract concessions from their parent company, Magna International. In turn, the plant was slated for closure.
"You've got people with their homes, houses, kid's tuition and things like that, you know it's a struggle and for them to ask us to drop down to $13 an hour when our bills aren't going to change, it makes no sense," said Williams.
But while these men and women now face the daunting task of finding new jobs, they say they are walking away with friendships that can never be replaced.
"The people, people, you get used to coming and working with guys every day, it's like another part of your family," said Williams.
31 employees will stay on the job through December to help close up the plant.
Meanwhile the facility is up for sale, and officials say it is likely several companies could split the space.