Update (Jan. 21, 2023): While a BorgWarner spokesperson quoted below initially stated the consolidation and closure plan would be finished by Q3 2023, another official, Michelle Collins, has corrected that timeline after publication. She said they plan to have the closure finished by Q4 2024, giving the plant a full year longer.

Original story (Jan. 20, 2023):

ITHACA, N.Y.—One of Tompkins County’s largest job providers is significantly cutting its workforce locally, The Ithaca Voice has confirmed. Over the next two years, BorgWarner automotive manufacturer will be closing one of its two plants at its Warren Road campus near the Town of Lansing and Ithaca border.

The closing plant is used for valvetrain production. A technical center will also close, while another plant at the location, for chain production, will remain operational. A wide range of jobs could be impacted by the decision.

“The company has decided to consolidate the valvetrain production facility into another existing BorgWarner facility and close the valvetrain research technical center on the Ithaca, NY campus,” said Alexis Grimshaw, the company’s public relations specialist. “BorgWarner plans to continue to invest in manufacturing in New York and continues to invest in the United States to bring successful mobility innovation to market.”

Grimshaw said the consolidation and closure “are intended to be completed by [Q4 2024].” BorgWarner currently employs around 1,500 workers in Tompkins County, the third largest job provider in the county behind Cornell University and Ithaca College. The facility’s presence in Tompkins County is born from the Morse Chain Company, which was founded in Trumansburg in the late 1800s. The company joined with BorgWarner in the 1920s, and its presence in the area has remained steady since.

Grimshaw said the company had already announced its intentions to make “market-driven adjustments to adapt its cost structure in order to remain competitive in the current environment, including restructuring, closure, or consolidation of manufacturing and/or technical centers in all major regions” and that this was a result of that strategy.

Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler and Ithaca Area Economic Development Executive Director Heather McDaniel both lamented the closing and the loss of jobs. The full change includes part of the operation moving to an existing facility in Mexico.

The final number of jobs impacted is unknown, but McDaniel said it could be “as much as a quarter of the employment base over the next two years,” though with retirements and normal turnover the number will likely be less than that, according to McDaniel. The total number may take two years or more to actually determine. Sigler said he had been told about 280 jobs could be lost.

“Unfortunately, businesses have to make decisions that maintain their competitiveness nationally or globally,” McDaniel said. “The reality is they weren’t able to keep that portion of the business competitive in [New York State]. We can’t just throw money to make them profitable, they had to make some decisions.”

Notification for employees of this decision began this week. Grimshaw said the company is “committed to ensuring the smoothest transition possible for any impacted employees while also continuing to support our customers and suppliers over the coming months.”

McDaniel said she had coordinated with New York State and the federal government on incentive options to keep the closing plant open, but to no avail.

“It’s important to look at the bright side,” McDaniel said. “It’s negative in that there will be jobs lost, but over the longer term, it makes a portion of their business far more competitive. We’re happy to have BorgWarner as one of our largest employers in Tompkins County and we’ll continue to work with them to help them make their business profitable here.”

Matt Butler is the Editor in Chief at The Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.org.