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Libbey to halt production of Syracuse China in U.S.

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The 137-year-old factory in Syracuse, N.Y., with 275 employees, has been part of Libbey since 1995.


Sales of glass tableware to homes and restaurants cracked at Libbey Inc. last month, forcing the firm to lower its quarterly profit forecast and close operations in Syracuse, N.Y., and Mira Loma, Calif.

The news sent the company's shares 34 percent lower yesterday.

"While sales were close to expectations through October they deteriorated quickly in November," John Meier, chief executive, said in a written statement from the firm's headquarters in downtown Toledo.

The company blamed current economic conditions, including waning consumer confidence.

As a result, Libbey will close a 137-year-old Syracuse China plant, which it has owned since 1995, by March 27. The move will affect 275 employees. Ceramic tableware sold under the Syracuse name will be imported from factories in lower-wage nations.

The closing is a huge blow to the Syracuse community.

Dennis Connors is curator of history for the Onondaga Historical Association, which has a permanent exhibit dedicated to Syracuse China.

"It's not just the generations who have worked there," he said.


The plant has made its New York home's name well known around the U.S.


"The product has carried our city's name across the country. It was regarded as a high-quality product and it was an image reflected on our city."

Workers and local leaders in Syracuse said insult was added to injury when Libbey said it will continue selling china under the Syracuse name on products imported from factories in other countries, the very competition that has helped kill dinnerware manufacturing in the United States.

"It's not only the fact that it's a job, but it holds the Syracuse name," said Ed Sabin, a 19-year employee of the plant.

Syracuse China was founded in 1871 as the Onondaga Pottery Co. At its peak, Syracuse China has as many as 1,200 employees. Libbey purchased Syracuse China in 1995. The Toledo firm said two years ago that the New York factory was not profitable.

Also in Libbey's latest announcement, an additional 30 people will lose their jobs in May when Libbey shutters a distribution center in Mira Loma, Calif.

The closings are expected to boost annual cash flow by a range of $4 million to $5 million.

The moves will leave just three U.S. factories for Libbey: glassware plants in central Toledo and Shreveport, La., and a plastics plant in Dane, Wis. Libbey employs 1,400 people in Toledo among 2,900 nationwide and 7,400 globally.

Ken Boerger, company treasurer, said yesterday that the latest moves do not jeopardize the Toledo factory: "We have no plans to shut other facilities at this time."

In the announcement, company officials said they now expect pre-tax profits and sales in the fourth quarter to be "significantly lower" than forecasts made Oct. 16.

At that time, the firm predicted pre-tax profits, excluding interest, of $20.5 million to $23.5 million and sales of $210 million to $220 million.

Libbey shares closed yesterday at $1.15, off 60 cents, in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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