We are sad to announce that Pine Ridge Industries will be closing down operations as of 3/31/2023
It was with great sadness that Executive Director Kirk Lewis and Pine Ridge Industries’ Chief Operations Officer Nathan Mandsager met with the workers at Pine Ridge Industries (PRI) at the end of November to announce that the agency was implementing a plan to close the operation by the end of March, 2023.
“The state has stopped supporting site-based employment programs that used to be known as ‘sheltered workshops’”, Kirk Lewis explained. “For the last 10 years, it has been more and more difficult for agencies like Schenectady ARC to offer a program like Pine Ridge. The only way we can survive is to operate as a competitive contract manufacturing business, however, we’re dealing with an unstable economy and we’re competing against foreign labor, automation and continued pressure from our customers to reduce our production costs.”
Lewis said that in 2022, Pine Ridge lost a significant contract not because of the quality of work, but because the manufacturer moved the work overseas. For the last six months, the staff at PRI have been pursuing other potential business partners but nothing with the size and volume of work necessary to sustain PRI has emerged.
The agency selected the March closing date to provide both employees and the businesses that were contracting with Pine Ridge sufficient time to make alternative plans. Staff from the New Directions employment program were on hand to assist individuals, and representatives from the Human Resources office also were available to discuss other employment options within Schenectady ARC. PRI staff are also working with customers to see if they want to directly hire any of the individuals who have been working on their products.
Schenectady ARC will continue to support individuals with a variety of day services. New Directions,
Schenectady ARC’s employment support program, works with eligible individuals and employers to help people find work with employers in the community who are looking for reliable, dedicated workers. Life Prep 2 also does a variety of career exploration activities, and the agency is developing community based pre-vocational programs that can operate outside of Pine Ridge. The agency also continues to operate its successful horticultural program at the Maple Ridge site in Rotterdam.
The closure of Pine Ridge and the decision not to reopen Princetown, made during the pandemic, are part of a larger trend within New York’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). Lewis noted that “OPWDD recently released it’s 5-year strategic plan, and it is clear that the focus for services in the future will be on smaller, community-based programs. Although the decision to close Pine Ridge was difficult, it is the right thing to do to prepare the agency for the future.”
No decisions have been made with respect to the Pine Ridge property. The agency is exploring all its options, but for the time being the other programs that are based there (New Directions, the Employer Resource Network) will continue to use the facility.