New Era Cap Co., which is headquartered in Buffalo, said it is considering closing its manufacturing plant in Derby, NY, effective March 2019. A total of 219 jobs will be impacted. The plant represents New Era’s only headwear-manufacturing facility in the U.S.

“This contemplated decision is part of the company’s ongoing effort to more closely align its business model with its competitors in the global sports, lifestyle, and apparel industry by moving away from owning an operating manufacturing plants,” the company said in a prepared statement.

Most of the production of sports apparel is now made by third-party contactors in places like China, Bangladesh and Vietnam.

“This is an extremely difficult for me. I grew up in Derby and worked in the facility, which has had a long, productive history with the company,” said Chris Koch, CEO of New Era, in the statement. “Even as other sports apparel brands moved away from running their own manufacturing plants, we continued making caps at our facility in Derby. But I have an obligation to our employees, partners and customer to ensure the long-term success of this company and we need to keep up with changes in our industry.”

The Associated Press reported that New Era said the Derby plant, near Buffalo, makes about 2 percent of its total product, including the caps worn by MLB players during games. The caps will continue to be made in the U.S. at a screen-printing plant in Opa Locka, FL operated by 5th & Ocean, New Era’s fan apparel brand.

On field baseball caps are made in the U.S. per an agreement with Major League Baseball. The Derby plant reportedly produces between 2 million and 4.5 million caps a year. The plant has been operating since the early 1960s.

Of the 219 workers at the plant, 192 are represented by the CWA Local 14177.

In accordance with the collective bargaining agreement, New Era said it has informed the union of its contemplated decision and expects to meet with the union to discuss the matter in the coming weeks. New Era said it is prepared to offer the affected employees benefits and severance at levels beyond what is required in the current agreement.

Image courtesy of New Era