Our Opinion: Sabic moves sharpen Berkshires job focus
The second Sabic announcement that dropped Wednesday didn't constitute a surprise, but that doesn't lessen its impact on Pittsfield and the Berkshires.
The company announced that it will close its polymer processing development center in Pittsfield within two years and move its operations there to Selkirk, N.Y. This comes in the wake of an October announcement that Sabic would dissolve its world headquarters in Pittsfield and relocate it to Houston next year that made Wednesday's news all but inevitable.
The longer time frame involving the polymer processing development center closing gives employees there more time to explore job options. Selkirk is about 40 miles away from Pittsfield along Route 87 so it is possible that some employees who live in the city or the Berkshires will be able to keep their jobs and make the commute. The two Sabic operations in Pittsfield employ about 300 people combined.
The second Sabic closing, although not unexpected, does return the focus to the serious economic challenges facing the city and county. The region has been hammered with job losses for decades and the steady loss of population, particularly that of young people, has been demoralizing.
Attracting new business is challenging, in part because communities everywhere are doing the same and many have selling points, such as a good road network, that the county lacks. In a Nov. 5 opinion page piece, David Allen, president and CEO of Sinicon Plastics and a member of the Berkshire Innovation Center board, made the point that the Berkshires' largest companies and employers for the most part began here and then expanded. He argued that efforts should be focused on helping current local businesses follow the same route. That's an approach that local and state elected officials should pursue.