Another business with long roots in Jefferson County is being forced to close its doors.
Jain Irrigation, 740 Water St. in Watertown, has let many of its roughly 50 employees go. Rivulis Irrigation, headquartered in Israel, closed last month on a deal to take over Jain Irrigation. The Singapore-based Temasek Holdings acquired Rivulis Irrigation in 2020.
The Jain Irrigation facility in Watertown produces a special form of tape used in irrigation systems. Its clients are primarily agricultural companies in the Western part of the United States as well as Mexico.
According to a story published May 11 by the Watertown Daily Times, Richard D. Chapin founded Chapin Watermatics in 1962. The local company was acquired by Jain Corp. in 2006.
Richard G. Restuccia, water management solutions vice president for Jain Irrigation, told WWNY-TV/7News that the escalating costs of producing and delivering this particular product to the company’s clients no longer justifies keeping the Watertown facility — known as Chapin Tape — open.
“For over six decades, the employees have been the driving force behind Chapin Tape’s success in the agricultural industry. For many years, the use of drip irrigation tape in agriculture has grown enormously in the Western US and Mexico,” Restuccia wrote in an email to 7News, an article published May 11 by the news outlet reported. “Unfortunately, with the status of the global irrigation markets, the strong dollar, rising transportation and operational costs, the scale of the Watertown plant necessitated consolidation more near-end markets for Rivulis to remain competitive in the irrigation industry.
“Rivulis conducted a thorough post-merger integration process for the newly merged companies’ product portfolios. As a result, following careful consideration based upon in-depth analysis, the Chapin Tape product offering could no longer be justified when manufactured in New York,” Restuccia wrote. “We are committed to our customers to ensure a smooth transition by supplying Chapin Tape products from other factories worldwide and by offering alternative products from our extended products portfolio. These have been contributing factors to the difficult decision we face today.”
David J. Zembiec, chief executive officer of Jefferson County Economic Development, said his agency has made it a priority to work with the Jain Irrigation employees who have been laid off. He wants to ensure they are connected with job opportunities in this region.
“The bottom line is it looks like we’re losing those jobs and we’re working with all of our partners in workforce development and economic development to try to find a place for these people to land so they can keep earning a paycheck,” Zembiec told the Watertown Daily Times.
Human resource representatives of Jain Irrigation have begun meeting with the facility’s employees to offer severance packages and help them with the unemployment process. The good news is that other manufacturers in the area are hiring, which should bode well for Jain Irrigation’s workers.
It’s also good that the JCED will become involved in helping the employees transition to new jobs. It would be a shame to see these individuals remain unemployed or leave this area for work elsewhere.
As beneficial as global trade is, this is an unfortunate consequence. Products often become cheaper to produce somewhere else, compelling companies to cut jobs and close their doors.
The real test will be how the state Department of Labor handles this situation. During the novel coronavirus pandemic, many people who lost their jobs endured months of repeated phone calls just to file unemployment claims — and then they waited months more for the state to begin paying them.
Hopefully, the state Department of Labor has worked out many of these problems. We’ll all need to keep watch on this to ensure Jain Irrigation workers get the compensation they deserve as they look for new positions.
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