Final bid delivered to New Era

Published 10:26 pm Friday, January 22, 2010

Demopolis mayor Mike Grayson sent the proposal for Demopolis to keep its New Era Cap plant to the company headquarters in Buffalo, N.Y., on Tuesday. Now, it’s time to sit and wait — and pray.

“It is really in the Lord’s hands right now,” Grayson said. “I would encourage everyone to hit their knees and say a prayer.”

As requested by New Era management, the final proposal was sent electronically to the company’s headquarters. Grayson said he was disappointed not to have been afforded the opportunity to present the proposal to New Era officials personally.

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New Era Cap Company of Buffalo, N.Y., announced in November that it was consolidating its three manufacturing plants and said that its plant in Jackson, Ala., would close later this year. That left the plant in Demopolis and the plant in Derby, N.Y., as either the plant to be closed or the one to survive. New Era officials said the final decision would come in the next couple of weeks.

The package sent by the City of Demopolis involved several different aspects of the needs of New Era Cap Company.

“I think that the proposal that we delivered to them was very competitive, and I say that based on input from Ken Novak, a senior economic development project manager with Alabama Power, and Tom Bolton, the president and chief executive officer of Cooper Brothers Construction Company,” Grayson said. “They have been involved in many, many projects around the state, and they both said that Demopolis put their money where their mouth is.

“We weren’t just talking a good game, saying ‘We want you here.’ We demonstrated to them our willingness to help them with the 50,000-square-foot expansion. That seemed to be one of the stumbling blocks, that the building here was currently maxed out in terms of space usage and bringing in other operations here, such as their cutting facility, their cap-making operation and raw material storage.”

Grayson said that city attorney Richard S. Manley told New Era Cap officials on Jan. 7 that the city was willing to expand the facility to almost any size it wanted, as the city owns the land surrounding the Demopolis plant, including the Memorial Football Stadium.

“That’s when I think we got back in the game,” Grayson said.

He added that from the time the company was founded in 1930, the plant in Derby, N.Y., has not seen the governor of New York once, but since being in Demopolis for 12 years, they have had conversations with three governors.

Grayson said several people helped provide a strong negotiations package, including Novak, Bolton, Manley, Debra M. Fox of the Marengo County Economic Development Authority, Dr. Ken Tucker of the Marengo County Commission and the University of West Alabama, Linda Swann and Neal Wade of the Alabama Development Office, Doni Ingram of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Gov. Bob Riley, State Rep. A.J. McCampbell and State Sen. Bobby Singleton.

““I think we are near the end of the discussion and negotiation phase” said New Era Cap spokesman Paull Gallagher. “We are in the process of reviewing all of this and balancing all the factors. We are still projecting that a decision will be forthcoming in the next week or two, which was the original timeframe, the first part of February. Then, the consolidation would occur over the next couple of weeks and be completed sometime in the next quarter of this year.”

“We have been really grateful for the speedy response from New York and Alabama, full engagements by the states and their economic development folks. The union has been very helpful, and we’ve had very constructive communications. We have analyzed this from every possible angle to arrive at the best business decision.”