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Schumer: Alcoa isn’t thinking about closing Massena operations

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MASSENA - While Alcoa has until December of 2015 to announce whether they will put more than $600 million into modernizing its west plant in Massena, Sen. Charles E. Schumer weighed in on Wednesday, predicting that modernization will take place.

“The expansion, the modernization is still happening,” Mr. Schumer said. “The expansion of jobs in the longer run is still committed, but they’ve slowed down the expansion of jobs in the west part of the plant.”

Mr. Schumer was in Watertown on Wednesday to speak about the future of Fort Drum and avoiding cuts there, but during a question and answer session Alcoa became a topic of discussion.

When the senator was asked about modernization and whether Alcoa was backtracking with its closure of the east plant, he called Alcoa’s Massena’s operations the company’s hope for the future.

“I’ve spoken to the head of Alcoa. They are not backtracking on the Alcoa East plan, because it provides the cheapest electricity that they have,” he said. “Cheaper than Washington state, cheaper than other large plants in other parts of the country. They still use this plant as their hope for the future.”

Mr. Schumer then explained why, in his eyes, Alcoa has elected to close its east plant.

“The demand for aluminum has gone up, but the price continues to stay very low,” he said. “No one can figure our exactly what’s happened.”

After predicting that modernization will happen, Mr. Schumer was then asked if he would like to see the company make that announcement sooner rather than waiting until the deadline.

“Yes, I would like them to say it as such when possible,” he said, adding though that he wasn’t going to pressure them to do so.

“You try to be a good neighbor to Alcoa, because they’re one of the biggest employers here and they pay good wages,” he said. “Just like Carl (Carl McLaughlin, of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization) mentioned with Fort Drum, it’s not only the 1,100 jobs there, but all the ancillary jobs, the secondary suppliers, the truckers that come in and out and everything else.”

Mr. Schumer said he doesn’t want to company to make poor decisions, but at the same time he wants them to fulfill their commitments to the region.

“We don’t want them to do things that are uneconomic, we just want them when they grow, to make sure they grow here first, as they committed,” he said referring to the low-cost power agreement signed between Alcoa and then Governor Eliot Spitzer.

“Aluminum depends on electricity more than other products, the cost of electricity is major. They (Alcoa) know they have a great workforce up there in Massena, and the cost of power has stayed low so that has cushioned the blow,” he said. “They’ve closed a whole bunch of plants. They’re not thinking about closing Massena.”

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