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Fri., Dec. 19
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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Massena officials note importance of Alcoa to region

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MASSENA - Using phrases like “vitally important” and “critical,” Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray and Mayor James F. Hidy described Alcoa’s presence in the community and spoke this week about what the loss of the county’s largest employer would mean should the company decide to leave Massena.

“It’s vitally important,” Mr. Gray said. “Obviously the jobs are tremendously important.”

The community has been on edge since Alcoa announced a week ago today that it would be shutting down the final two potlines at the Alcoa East plant, closing a plant that has 332 employees. Another 600 plus employees work at the Alcoa West plant, and the challenges in the global aluminum market have some in the community concerned about the long-term viability of that plant as well.

The more than 1,000 jobs currently provided by Alcoa though aren’t the only thing the company brings to Massena, according to community leaders.

“They pay a lot of taxes,” Mr. Gray said. “They are very important to the tax base. When GM (General Motors) closed down their plant ,we ended up losing millions of dollars off our tax rolls and this would be similar to that.”

Even if Alcoa remains in Massena, keeping its west plant open, Mr. Gray said taxpayers could feel the impact if modernization at the east plant falls through and the plant remains closed.

“One of the things they (Alcoa) said they might do is use people to tear down the plant,” Mr. Gray said, explaining that should that happen and Alcoa challenges its assessment, taxes could end up going up for everybody.

Mr. Hidy said Alcoa’s presence in the community isn’t only important for Massena, but for the entire region.

“Alcoa’s presence remaining in Massena is critical. It is obviously the life of the remaining local economy and one of, if not, the biggest wage provider with benefits remaining in the north country. If Alcoa were to leave, there would be an enormous trickle down effect, not only for Massena, but quite possible for anywhere within a 40 mile radius,” he said.

Mr. Hidy explained that in addition to tax dollars and jobs, the company is known for being a good neighbor.

“Alcoa’s influence doesn’t stop with just providing families incomes, but they are also a major contributor to institutions such as Clarkson, our area hospitals, local schools and charities,” he said.

Should Alcoa end up leaving Massena, Mr. Hidy said the hole they would leave behind would take years to fill.

“Time doesn’t permit industries, such as Alcoa, to just fill the gap in a short period of time,” he said. “If Alcoa were to leave, it would take years to fill that gap.”

Mr. Gray, who said he’s optimistic that Alcoa isn’t going anywhere, did admit though that he’s nervous.

“As I have said before Alcoa has been here for a long time, and I hope and expect that they’ll be here for a great while longer,” he said. “I don’t think Alcoa is leaving any time soon. Are we concerned? Sure we are, we would be foolish not to be.”

Mr. Hidy said he hopes Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfeld and the company’s board of directors realize the positive impact they have had on Massena thus far, and the negative impact they could have, should they decide to leave.

“I’m hoping that Mr. Kleinfeld and his board of directors realize that it was Alcoa that built this community, and Alcoa that will help lure industries requiring the use of aluminum to be located strategically nearby.”

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