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Syracuse China closing: is there a silver lining?

The local economy was dealt another blow last week with the announcement that local mainstay Syracuse China will close in March of 2009.

Libbey Inc., which owns the Lyncourt factory, announced on Dec. 9 that it would close the facility's doors next year because "weakening global economic conditions [have led] to [a] dampened financial outlook." The Toledo-based company, which was formerly known as the New England Glass Works and Libbey Glass Company, will also close one of its glassware distribution centers in Mira Loma, CA.

Libbey Chairman and CEO John Meier said the closing comes after a disappointing fourth quarter in which the company expects its sales to be significantly lower than previously anticipated.

"The recent and dramatic slowdown in the foodservice and retail channels, weaknesses in the Mexican peso and declining consumer confidence in all markets are expected to contribute to reduced results during the fourth quarter," Meier said in a news release. "While sales were close to expectations through October they deteriorated quickly in November. We are being impacted by economic conditions, but we are confident that we are maintaining our market share in our core North American glassware markets."

Libbey Inc. supplies glassware and tableware to foodservice, retail, industrial and business customers in over 100 countries. The company is the largest manufacturer of glass tableware in the western hemisphere and one of the largest in the world. The company is also the leading manufacturer of tabletop products for the U.S. foodservice industry.

Meier said the March 27 closing of the Syracuse factory, which employs 275 people, will improve the company's cost structure and operating efficiency. Syracuse China will now be made elsewhere, he said.

"For our customers, we expect to minimize the effects of this decision by continuing to service the North American foodservice dinnerware market with imported dinnerware under both the Syracuse China and World Tableware brands," he said. "While considerable efforts have been made at Syracuse China to reduce costs, the operations continue to fall short of our strategic expectations. This restructuring of Syracuse China will improve Libbey's competitiveness in 2009 and beyond."

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