Losing longtime business Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises to a neighboring community is a sting to Barberton, but the mayor said he was not shocked at the news.

“The rumor mill has been swirling for several years. We’ve seen layoffs in the past and some of the operational changes they’ve gone through and struggles they’ve come up against as a company as a whole,” Mayor Bill Judge said Monday morning upon learning that the company with a 112-year history is moving its employees now located in Barberton and Copley to Akron. The company will also move its headquarters from Charlotte, N.C., to Akron’s East End development by next year.

“It’s not surprising, but I’m very disappointed as anyone would be,” he said. Judge said he has met with B&W officials many times over the years with each rumor, offering financial incentives to stay in town. Judge said since B&W is a public company, he was never able to confirm whether it was leaving or could accept his packages.

However, the sting of B&W's departure is eased a bit by a few things, Judge said. Since the company is not moving out of state and is moving nearby, Barberton residents who work for the company will not be displaced and can keep their jobs, Judge said.

“One of the bright spots is they are staying in the region and their employees in Barberton won’t be displaced. That’s who I care about  — my constituents,” Judge said.

Judge said he understands that Akron did not lure the company to the city and that B&W officials were also looking to relocate to other states.

“We’re losing a part of Barberton that helped build the community. You'd be hard-pressed to find someone in Barberton who didn’t work at BW or had family who did. But the fact that they’re moving just a few miles out helps ease the sting there,” he said.

Still, the move will hurt Barberton financially. Income tax revenue is "our bread and butter," he said, though Judge said he did not have official numbers of how much the city would lose.

There is also a tax-sharing agreement among Summit County communities, assuring that if a company moves from one to another the two share a certain percentage of revenue for five years. Judge said he and Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan will have to sit down and work out the details.

B&W company officials told Judge Monday morning that they did not anticipate any more layoffs.

Judge said there will be a drastic reduction in space from about 600,000 square feet to 175,000 square feet. B&W officials said the Barberton campus was too big and expensive to maintain and the offices at the refurbished former Goodyear headquarters complex will work for the company.

B&W’s five-building campus on South Van Buren Avenue in Barberton will be purchased, redeveloped and repurposed by the two partners in the East End, Industrial Realty Group and Industrial Commercial Properties. Judge said he doesn’t know details about their plans.

But not having white elephant buildings in town will be a good thing, he said.

“We have met with IRG about filling some of their vacant BW buildings with jobs. We’ve gone down that road and already met this morning with IRG to talk about this,” Judge said. He is also optimistic since he has a meeting set up with IRG officials later this week.

“We’ve got businesses knocking on our door to move and expand here. I think that’s a good sign. We have had some wins on economic development in Barberton as well,” the mayor said. For instance, the company spun off in 2015 from B&W called BWX Technologies Inc. has separate operations in Barberton and was to go in front of City Council Monday night for an $82 million expansion, he said.

 

Beacon Journal staff reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty