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Historic Gun Factory in New York State Village to Close

VOA Learning English • voa
Feb. 13, 2024 5 minSource

The oldest gunmaker in America is closing its factory in a small town in the state of New York.

Remington Firearms was formed two centuries ago in what is now the town of Ilion, a village in the heart of New York’s Mohawk Valley area. It began when Eliphalet Remington forged his first rifle barrel nearby in 1816.

Remington’s owners recently announced it would permanently shut the factory in March. They said costs were too high to continue making guns in Ilion.

The company is uniting all its operations in the southeastern state of Georgia. Remington officials say Georgia is friendlier to the firearms industry than New York.

The company’s recent history has been marked by a lawsuit connected to the mass murder of 20 children and six adults in 2012 at an elementary school in Connecticut. Remington Arms agreed to pay $73 million to relatives of victims and a survivor to settle the legal action. The company also declared financial failure more than once.

The factory workforce had dropped from about 1,300 workers more than 10 years ago to around 300. About 7,600 people live in Ilion. The gunmaker’s withdrawal is a major loss to the town’s economy and more.

“When Remington leaves, it’s not going to be like a facility leaving, it’s going to be like part of your family has moved off,” said former factory worker Jim Conover. Conover retired in 2004, after 40 years at the plant.

Everyone knows someone who worked at the factory. For some families, jobs there are almost a birthright . Conover’s father and sons also worked at the plant.

Building engineer Frank “Rusty” Brown has had many family members among his coworkers.

“My mom worked there. My dad worked there. My wife works there with me now. My daughter works there with me now. My second daughter works there with me now. And my son-in-law works there," said Brown, who is president of the United Mine Workers of America Local 717.

He added, “So it's a double-hit for me and my wife: two of us out of a job.”

The current owners of Remington Firearms, RemArms, blamed “production inefficiencies ” for the plant closure in a letter to union officials late last year. They noted the high cost of caring for about 92,903 square meters of space in several buildings, many dating to World War I.

RemArms added that Georgia offered an environment that better “supports and welcomes the firearms industry.”

RemArms CEO Ken D’Arcy also said in a news release that the industry was concerned about the “legislative environment” in New York.

But in a stretch of upstate New York where support for gun rights tends to be strong, some Republican elected officials seized on the company’s comment about Georgia. They linked the plant closure to gun control measures championed by New York City-area Democrats in recent years.

RemArms, which bought the firearms business in 2020, did not answer emails and calls seeking comment.

The company said in its letter to the union it expected to end facility operations around March 4. The company earlier announced in 2021 it was moving its headquarters to LaGrange, Georgia. RemArms said it would open a factory and research operation there.

The days of traffic jams in Ilion every afternoon when shifts let out are long gone. Empty spaces can be found in the factory's big parking lot. Nearby businesses that have long provided meals to the workers have already seen a sharp reduction in food orders.

One such business is Franco’s pizza. Its owner, Daniel Mendez, said orders have been “dwindling down,” or decreasing.

“This is not necessarily going to put us out of business, but it does hurt,” Mendez said.

Ilion Mayor John Stephens said there will be hard decisions ahead. But he said he believes the factory site will be used again. And while Remington might leave, he said the connection between the town and the factory can never be broken.

“Even when they are finally 100 percent no longer involved in the Village of Ilion in any way, shape or form, we’re still going to be known for this,” Stephens said. “You can’t erase history.”

I’m Caty Weaver.

The Associated Press reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English.

Words in This Story

forge –n. to form (something, such as metal) by heating and hammering

lawsuit –n. a legal case before a court

facility –n. something (such as a hospital) that is built, installed, or established to serve a special purpose

birthright –n. a right, privilege, or possession to which a person is entitled by birth

inefficiency –n. a state or quality that is wasteful of time or energy

erase –v. to remove from existence or memory

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