BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
Novartis Pharmaceuticals has notified local officials that they will be closing their Suffern plant over the course of the next three years, County Executive Ed Day confirmed with the Rockland County Times. Employees of the company received the news during their 2 o’clock shift, Day said.
The company will attempt to relocate as many of the plant’s 521 employees as possible to two plants in Long Island and one in East Hanover, New Jersey. Of the 521 men and women employed at the Suffern plant, 283 are New York residents. As of Tuesday evening, it is unconfirmed how many of those are Rockland residents.
Novartis is one of Rockland’s largest employers and provides millions in property taxes to school, village, town and county coffers.
Day said the pharmaceutical giant informed the county and the Village of Suffern that they intend to level the existing facilities in 2017. Day, however, said he asked the company to keep their options open and consider working to transfer the property and building to a potential new occupant.
Day said the county will be reaching out to the business community, working with the Rockland Economic Development Corporation as well as the Village of Suffern, to find an interested party who can move into the location in 2017.
Suffern Police Chief Clarke Osborn broke the bad news of the plant closure on his Facebook page Tuesday evening. Osborn, who recently resigned from Ramapo Central School District’s Board of Trustees, lamented, “Hopefully a good ratable takes its place and that all of the hundreds of employees who work at this site find employment in a place that they desire. We have a great community, great schools and an awesome village in Suffern, we need to keep it that way.”
Day said the loss of Novartis highlights the need of the county to develop a positive business environment. “This is a perfect example of why it’s essential we engage in an effective economic development program. Sometimes things will hit on the negative end of ledger, so it is essential to make things happen on the positive end of ledger. We will try to make the best of the situation and bring a ratable back to county [to replace Novartis]. And we will engage in a general course of action to bring ratables to Rockland.”
Day and Osborn both said the Novartis closure is a surprise and appears to be related to corporate strategy and not in reaction to any particular external event.
Julie Masow, a spokeswoman for Novartis, released the following statement explaining the company’s decision:
“Novartis continually reviews its manufacturing infrastructure and capacity, including number and size of its sites. This is part of our global strategy to create designated Manufacturing Centers of Excellence worldwide to better support the future Novartis product supply chain and maximize productivity. This ongoing evaluation helps to ensure we have the right production capacity in place to meet market demand and support our products and pipeline.
“Novartis has a robust pipeline for the US market however changes in our current portfolio, namely the loss of exclusivity of Diovan®, have significantly reduced the future production demand on the Suffern site. Consequently the site’s future volumes would be significantly below the minimum required to operate it cost effectively. As such, Novartis has made the difficult, but necessary, decision to close pharmaceutical operations in Suffern. The closure process will begin in the second quarter of 2014 and will be completed over the next two to three years. All positions (~525) on the site will be impacted. Some necessary functions may be transferred to other Novartis sites depending on the business needs.
“All impacted associates will be treated fairly and with respect. Where possible, associates will be redeployed to other Novartis sites. A comprehensive support package aligned with the company policy will be available as well as outplacement and other support services. Suffern has supplied the Novartis network, its customers and patients with quality products for many years and we acknowledge and appreciate the significant contributions our associates have made to the organization. This difficult decision was a strategic choice made to optimize our manufacturing infrastructure.”
In 2010 Rockland County also lost jobs in the pharmaceutical industry when Pfizer Pharmaceuticals purchased the former Wyeth/Lederle plant in Pearl River and fired over 1,200 employees over the course of four years.