At the July 3rd council meeting, Nutley Mayor Alphonse Petracco tried to put a bright face on the impending closure of the town’s largest employer, pharmaceutical giant Roche, saying it could be a “good opportunity for Nutley to come out of this with more tax revenue.” His optimism, however, was not shared by some families at the meeting, who said they were devastated by the news.
“To sum it all up, unless you work there, you don’t understand it. The company was like a lifelong friend,” one Nutley resident, Laura, told Patch after the meeting.
After 80 years of being Nutley’s main employer, news of the closure shook the community to the core. An estimated 1,000 workers were told on June 26 they would be laid off when the company ceases operations in December 2013.
The Roche Group released the following statement the same day: “We recognize the significant impact that this decision will have on our people and Roche is committed to doing everything it can to seek socially responsible solutions for them, as well as the communities of Nutley and Clifton,” said Tom Lyon, Nutley Site Head.
Commissioner Mauro Tucci underlined that promise at the meeting, saying the township planned a multi-pronged approach to addressing issues raised by Roche’s departure, including reemployment of workers and its impact on local taxes.
Another issue raised during the meeting was the residual environmental effect of the company's presence. Commissioner Thomas Evans said environmental testing of the soil will be conducted by the state before the property is sold.
"Hoffman La Roche is currently working on their plan for remediation. They must submit a plan by May 2014 to the state,"added Evans, the Director of Revenue and Finance.
"All the property is up for sale. There has to be a subdivision that has to happen before that parcel of land can be sold. That's been underway for the past year and half," he said.
Petracco voiced his hope that the complex of buildings, only one of which is slated for demolition, is located just 13 miles from Manhattan and should appeal to many buyers, including other large companies.
Though Roche executives were invited to the Municipal Building by Nutley’s Board of Commissioners, representatives of the Swiss-based company didn’t show up.
Instead, the board met to discuss other town business, watched by a handful of town residents including Roche employees and their families.
“It was so sad, the day I found out,” said an office worker from Roche, who didn’t want her name published. “I’ve cried going to work every day for two weeks.”
Laura, whowas her cousin, noted that Roche meant more than simply a paycheck. “They treated their employees so good,” she said. “They treated their employees like no other company.”
Tuition reimbursement, companywide vacation between Christmas and New Year, welcoming children to visit parents at work and even a theatrical group, “The Roche Players” contributed to employee satisfaction.
“Behind those gates it’s a whole other world,” said Laura wistfully. “And it’s a good world.”
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