NORWICH – As he has for the past 13 years, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, D-Binghamton, paid his annual visit to Chenango County to assess some of the roadblocks facing local businesses and to determine what he can do in Washington to find solutions to them.
Those attending the round table discussion held at the Chenango County Council of the Arts Monday afternoon included executives from the Raymond Corporation, Unison Industries, Chenango Memorial Hospital and Commerce Chenango. Chenango County and City of Norwich officials also participated.
The stock market took another nose dive Monday, shedding 14 percent over the past two weeks combined, and the Senator took a moment to reflect on that. He said he found the notion that the country could default on its debt obligations without consequences – as members of the Tea Party in Congress have suggested – “confounding.”
“They have been proven wrong. We are like a blindfolded mass walking toward a cliff. If we keep walking in this same direction, we are going to fall off,” he said.
To control the debt, Schumer suggested getting a handle on spending and creating jobs through education, innovation and research.
On a local level, Gary Cummings of Unison Industries, the aircraft engine electrical and mechanical systems manufacturer in Norwich, asked the Senator to keep pushing Congress for General Electric’s F136 engine for Lockheed Martin’s F35 Joint Strike Fighter. Between 25 and 30 percent of Unison’s business in Norwich is for GE, including manufacturing parts for the fighter plane.
Despite calls from some in Congress, and also from the President, that building both GE’s F136 and Pratt and Whitney’s F135 engine, which is also being designed for Lockheed, are unnecessary and cost prohibitive for the military, GE has decided to take a risk and continue funding its own plane’s development through 2012, the company’s director of operations said.
“I’m asking when it will go into production?” Cummings asked the Senator, “and to say that we just want to compete” for the U.S. military’s business.
Schumer said GE “has made a very strong argument” about the need for two striker aircraft. “Competition tends to keep the cost down for all,” he said, “and that’s where my support lies. I’m confident we can get this done.”
Cummings said Unison currently employs 330. With the manufacturing schedule planned, it could add another 60 engineers by year’s end and another 70 in 2012.
The chief executive officer of Greene-based Raymond Corporation described his business as “fragile.”