Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Breaking News

Less than an hour ago, the Register-Star posted online the breaking story that Holcim US has announced its intention to mothball its cement plant in Catskill effective June 13: "Holcim's Catskill plant to close."


  1. Comments here, with a link to a company press release:


    --Sam P.

  2. I hope that New York State makes sure that Holcim properly & thoroughly cleans up their site after they shut the plant.

  3. And I hope we can begin a regional education project about the economic future of the Hudson Valley... If not heavy industry, What? And Why?

  4. As far as regional economy I suggest the April 2 CCLC meeting http://clctrust.org/pdf/TrailsConference.pdf

    I think open space, eco-tourism, agro-tourism is important and these trails are not insignificant. A network of trails linked with services (farms, bnb, etc.) could be one important piece of our economy.

  5. Beware the Ides of March indeed! Goodbye to SLC (Holcim) hopefully forever, there and here, too. There are 1500 acres of beautiful quarries and woods along Newman Road, Fingar Rd, Route 23 and NY Rte 9 that will make the most beautiful wilderness park ever. Very sorry about 100 jobs being lost. That is sad - but when the park opens there will several hundred jobs possible -yes? - yes! The South Bay can live again!

    Ruth Moser

  6. It was great that we stopped the unfortunate SLC Greenport project.

    Still, it is not great news that the Catskill plant is closing. These are good jobs that are disappearing and it will not be easy in Greene and Columbia Counties to replace them anytime soon.

    I feel sorry for the employees and the supplier businesses that will be hurt.

    -- Jock Spivy

  7. It will be interesting and more than likely very sad, to see if in fact those park jobs will pay comparable wages for kids' braces and mortgage payments and modest summer vacations for families.

    Or maybe none of that matters here anymore.

  8. Sam Pratt submitted this comment:

    The closing of the Catskill plant was inevitable and necessary. People who worked there knew this was coming long ago, and many moved on to other work already since the multiple rounds of job eliminations and layoffs began about five years ago.

    The thousands of residents downwind of Catskill are better off. People have the possibility of finding new jobs. They don't have the possibility of finding new lungs.

    The closing was inevitable (and indeed, predicted way back in Summer 2005 in my presentation to the Germantown Neighbors Association) due to both the nature of Holcim's international business model, and this particular plant's profile.

    Holcim wants to make big profit margins from very large plants which can dominate their regional markets. They don't want to run smaller, less efficient facilities with small profit margins. Having failed to build such a plant in Columbia County, Lafarge in Ravena stole a march on them and is poised to vastly expand their plant just to the north.

    Moreover, as an older plant with many maintenance and safety, which has been hit with hundreds of thousands in operating fines over the past few years, the Catskill plant was increasingly a drag on the company's bottom line. Coupled with an national economic downturn--far from being immune to recessions, cement plants closely track building trends--there simply wasn't much money in that site at that scale.

    But any major expansion in scale and technology would necessitate a new permitting process, much like the failed Greenport one. Despite efforts during the Bush administration to gut NSR (New Source Review), the Catskill plant would clearly be subject to such regulatory oversight.

    That would have meant a risky new investment of tens of millions on a highly-speculative venture, in a location where citizens had already demonstrated the tenacity and means to mount a prolonged, well-informed opposition. They again could expect a long, expensive, and
    low-percentage fight against residents in Columbia, Berkshire, Dutchess, Litchfield, and other downwind counties.

    Worse for Holcim, the Catskill location is squarely within the famous southwestern viewshed of Olana, and any expansion there would impact a Scenic Area of Statewide Significance--again, guaranteeing a difficult, stringent review, with many or all of the same 30+ groups which opposed the SLC project to weigh in all over again. And this time, they wouldn't be starting from scratch, but would have a world of knowledge, contacts, expertise and organizing know-how to bring to bear.

    The Holcim board (and the investors who track its stock) never behaved particularly rationally or cleverly here, but the $58 million they flushed down the drain the last time they tried such a move is hard even for overconfident, negligent corporate officers to overlook.

    As for economic development: Again and again, planners and residents and businesspeople here have agreed that the long-range goal has to be
    sustainable, compatible and contextual projects which complement each other and build upon the strengths of the region. Businesses like L'Eurial in Livingston and Etsy in Hudson promise as many or more jobs than Catskill ever provided--with none of the downside impacts, none of the controversy, and far more prospects of surviving future economic turbulence. That's where our focus should be, rather than attempting to reinvent a brief 1950s industrial heyday which is not coming back, no matter how nostalgic some might be for it.

  9. Susan Lynn Troy submitted this comment:

    I doubt the Holcim, Catskill, employees facing $405/week maximum Unemployment Insurance checks indefinitely, have time for nostalgia.

    Language is a powerful tool, and an equally powerful weapon. Good writers and strong public speakers, win. They out-vocabulary, out-syntax, out correct- tense, their most passionate, but less literate, opponents.

    Data can be easily manipulated by those skilled at "interpreting" it. It also can be used as a powerful tool, or a powerful weapon. For those who do not have the luxury, between work commitments and family responsibilities, to research data on a particular subject, they are equally unlikely to be able to intelligently respond when data is "quoted" in a particular context, at a public meeting.

    As a regular reader of this blog, I know that history is the topic near and dear to the readers and posters of this site; the history of buildings and architecture; of neighborhoods and communities; and of political and public leaders.

    Here, in local and regional printed media, and in restaurants and coffee shops, two persistent themes emerge with regard to economic development in Columbia County generally, and in the city, towns and villages that comprise this county, collectively.

    The first is the deeply held notion, (Oft times expressed with disdain.) that the only "acceptable" ways of earning a living here include selling real estate, working in the antique trade, being a successful artist, or owning a high end eatery.

    Oh, and if you're a niche farmer, your way of making a buck is deemed okay.

    My grandfather, who supported a wife and six children as a farmer in Columbia County, would not be embraced in this environment. He was not an organic farmer; he was simply a hard working, sometimes successful, sometimes not, farmer, who was not producing the newest, trendiest produce, nor was he utilizing the sexiest new agricultural methods.

    The second re-occurring theme regarding economic development here, is that if one is born, raised and educated here, one is stupid, stubborn and incapable of understanding or analyzing "the truth" which is eloquently expressed by those aforementioned writers and public speakers, backed up by "the data" that has been "interpreted" by the same writers/speakers. One caveat: a few (very few) notable local exceptions are always held up as such.

    So, in the spirit of history - I'd be interested to learn about the family histories of the people who are so delighted, so relieved, so thankful, that Holcim is closing.

    Were all of your parents and grandparents real estate moguls? Highly regarded, financially successful artists?

    Did anyone's parents work (GASP!) in a manufacturing environment or in some other blue collar job? Is that a source of pride or embarrassment?

    Does anyone remember when parents and grandparents were allowed - yes allowed - to get up in the morning, go off to their jobs, feel pride in their work, take home a paycheck and provide for their families, without assistance, and without scorn?

    Or is that nostalgia too?

  10. "Susan": I am glad that the Cement plant is closing! MY company is hiring would be happy to talk to any former HOLCIM workers about jobs! I think some of those HIGH END RESTAURANTS are looking for help too as is the new Internet business, Etsy .
    And So you can judge me (as you seem to judge the others trying to build a better world around here): My Ancestors on Mom's side including Grandparents were Coal Miners in PA and Coal Miners in Appalachia. My great granmother came over at 13- an indentured servant from Ireland who sewed in a PA textile factory till she left to marry a immigrant coal miner (a better life for her). On Dad's side they worked on the Train Lines and in Newspaper factories around upstate NY & Michigan, even the famous one who invented the light bulb after being kicked out of 3rd grade worked the train lines. My Dad grew up around here during the depression and used to sweep & clean the trains for 10cents/5 cars and go spend it in Hudson’s Brothels and Bars where they used to be more than happy to let kids or anybody else drink. My family has always supported the Hudson local Economy!
    I myself have never worked in Real Estate or Antiques or high end restaurants, work 6am to 8pm, 7 days a week, in a Factory, though it’s nothing like the filthy mines & plants that killed poor grandma and grandpa, who both died of lung cancer. I Gladly spent a considerable amount of our family's hard earned money building my factory and creating good jobs for Hudson, though comments like yours and the actions of City & County “leaders” lead me to seriously reconsider any future investment or bother. My kin folk from around here all tell me Hudson has always been a lost cause, still is, but I beg to differ and put my money where my mouth is. I have tried to build a company that is positive, vibrant, kind, creates good jobs, and is sustainable and able to compete in the future (I know, Hudson HATES the 21st Century, sorry about the whole March of Time thing).
    Me? I look forward to a day when people are allowed to get up in the morning, go off to thier jobs, feel pride in their work and take home a paycheck WITHOUT poisoning themselves and the community in the process. My business is dedicated to assisting small scale farmers reach the lucrative high end markets which are the only ones that big business hasn’t shut them out of (yet). I’m pretty successful at that. We buy everything we can local, as long as there are no pesticides & chemicals involved & even when the price is higher. We would have surely supported your grandfather, too.
    Susan Where do you work? What do you do to make Hudson better for your grandchildren? What investments have you personally made here? How many jobs have you created? What is YOUR vision of the future of Hudson and New York? Please share, we all need to work together to build a better Hudson! Maybe we can help!