CHICOPEE — Toolmaker The Disston Co. will move its U.S. operations and its 50 remaining employees from Deerfield and into the former Buxton Co.warehouse and distribution center on Plainfield Street before July. Disston's move comes after it has downsized its operations and shifted some, but not all, of its manufacturing operations to China. The company laid off 15 workers from its South Deerfield Factory in March, confirmed Mark Marzeotti vice president of sales & marketing. Buxton closed its facility in 2008. The Buxton site is smaller than the factory in South Deerfield Disston uses now.
Disston makes hole saws, band saw blades, jig saw blades, reciprocating saw blades, drill bits and other hand and power tools. This was only the most recent in a series of layoffs. The company had 150 employees in 2009. "We changed our manufacturing sites to Chicopee and China to ultimately lower costs," Marzeotti wrote Thursday in an email. "We will be manufacturing products in China to complete with Black & Decker/Dewalt, Skil, Bosch, Stanley, Irwin and many other national brands who have made their way to manufacture in China years ago. This is part of our stated business plan."
Chicopee Mayor Michael D. Bissonnette said he's optimistic that Disston will expand its manufacturing domestically and do so in Chicopee. He cited Callaway Golf as an example. Callaway shifted golf ball production to China and Mexico in 2010 stoking fears that the entire operation would leave.
But in the years since, Callaway has added golf ball manufacturing equipment to its Chicopee plant, Bissonnette said. "Wages and expenses are rising in China," Bissonnette said. "A lot of companies find it to their benefit to bring that manufacturing closer to home. Disston is a growing company." Disston has increased sales to True Value from 100 products to 700 this year and doubled its business with Sears and Kmart in a year, Marzeotti said. Disston is currently in the process of shipping 22 new items to Kmart to be displayed in all Kmart stores under the Craftsman brand, he said. When asked if Dissston would add employees in Chicopee, Marzeotti replied: " As we grow revenues which has already been occurring, we will support the business with the necessary manpower. It is already happening. Our plan is working." He said the manufacturing work that is staying here largely involves the technology Disston owns and doesn't want to compromise. "We will continue to manufacture our Rem-Grit Band Saws, reciprocating, jigsaw and circular saw blades for the industrial markets," Marzeotti wrote. "We will also continue to custom weld band saws to length." Bissonnette said Disston has not applied for any tax breaks through the state or city, yet. But he would encourage the company to take advantage of the programs. in order to do so, Disston would have to promise to create more jobs in Chicopee. "The work force training grants would be a great thing," Bissonnette said. "And we really want to create a connection between Disston and our vocational students at Chicopee Comp."
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