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When the Company IS the Town: Economic Recession Comes to Corning – and Corning, New York


Our local paper this morning carried this headline: “40,000 US Workers Get Bad News in Single Day”. That’s really overwhelming and definitely hard to get your arms (much less your head) around. Forty thousand people is the entire population of the county where my home town is. So, that sort of number sort of numbs you; unless you are one of the 40,000, then it has no meaning for you.

On the other hand, this headline sank it’s teeth into my neck this afternoon..but that is because this company is one of the few manufacturing beacons in Upstate New York: Corning, Inc.

“Corning Inc. to cut 640 jobs locally”

Local Corning Jobs Lost

Those 640 people are part of a 13% “decrease in headcount” that Corning will be putting into place, ‘as demand slumps for glass used in flat-screen televisions and computers.” Six hundred and forty people. Even across all Corning operations in the Steuben and Chemung counties area, this is a huge number of workers. Overall, around the world (and Corning has plants in German, Taiwan, PRC etc.), Corning employs 27,000 people, so the total decrease of 3,500 does not seem a lot. But in a place like the Southern Tier of New York, which has been holding onto manufacturing jobs by its toenails, this is huge.

Corning, Inc. has a long history in Upstate New York. It did not start here; the original name of the company was the Brooklyn Flint Glass Company. The owners came to Corning because of access to raw materials and water 157 years ago. One of the things that sets Corning, Inc. apart from companies like GE and IBM which also started in Upstate New York is the willingness of the company (even though it is publicly traded and Jamie Houghton no longer runs the place) to keep major manufacturing and research facilities in Corning, New York. A part of Corning, Inc. even still owns Market Street, the main business thoroughfare downtown.

Corning is a company town. Corning, Inc. campaigned strongly for more and better science labs and training in local schools. They invest heavily in the workforce here. Yes, there are other employers in the area, especially over in Horseheads and Elmira – but Corning itself beats with a heart made of glass. Pyrex glass..tempered glass…glass ceramic…but glass nonetheless.

Six hundred and forty lost jobs is going to be felt…right down to the ground.

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