By Kevin Hogencamp
Though much smaller than some of its failed predecessors, another Albany manufacturing company is shutting its doors after contributing millions of dollars annually to the area’s economy for decades.
American Standard Brands has begun laying off some of its 31 employees at its Fiat bathroom accessory plant at 1950 Maple St. in east Albany. Longtime plant manager Peggy Roberts said she already has lost her job, but refused further comment. The plant makes shower floors, mop service basins and wheelchair receptors. It generates $10 to $20 million in annual revenue, and has employed as many as 35 people.
As a result of consolidating its Fiat plant in Somerset, Ky., American Standards Brands is eliminating 28 hourly and three salaried positions in Albany. The company says it will provide transition services for the affected employees and put the 24,000 square-foot facility on the market for sale.
At the Albany plant on Tuesday, workers refused to comment, referring The Albany Journal to officials the company’s plant in Somerset, Ky. The company’s Somerset officials did not return the newspaper’s telephone calls.
The closing of the 52-year-old plant is the latest setback for Albany’s reeling economy, which has lost thousands of jobs in the last six years and has the highest unemployment rate among metropolitan areas in Georgia. In recent years, major Albany manufacturers Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., Merck & Co., and Bobs Candies – along with many smaller businesses – have shut their doors, far outnumbering the number of new jobs created.
Based in Piscataway Township, N.J., American Standard Brands is sold under American Standard, Crane, Fiat, Sanymetal, Showerite and Eljer brand names. The Albany plant formerly was a manufacturing facility for Crane Plumbing, which in 2008 merged with plumbing fixture companies American Standard Americas and Eljer to create American Standard Brands.
American Standards Brands is consolidating all of its terrazzo material manufacturing for its Fiat brand line at its Somerset facility. Terrazzo is a
composite material used by Fiat to create shower floors, mop service basins, and wheelchair receptors. The Terrazzo manufacturing consolidation adds 22 hourly positions at the 258,000-square foot facility in Somerset. The Kentucky operation can accommodate future expansion, while offering immediate benefits to Fiat customers with centralized customer service and quicker delivery for special orders, company officials said earlier this year.
“Fiat is an important brand in our portfolio of total bathroom solutions, giving us a wide variety of offerings for shower stalls and enclosures that suit many types of spaces,” Donald C. Devine, president and CEO of American Standard Brands, said in an August news release.
Fiat shower floors and wheelchair receptors are used in hotels, hospitals, housing facilities, apartments and other spaces that have showers.
“The company appreciates the contributions made by the employees in Albany in creating quality products and looks forward to working with the expanded team in Somerset in continuing the success of the Terrazzo products and the Fiat brand,” the company said in the news release.