At Tuesday's council meeting, Nutley Mayor Alphonse Petracco tried to put a bright face on the impending closure of the town’s largest employer, pharmaceutical giant Roche, saying it could be a “good opportunity for Nutley to come out of this with more tax revenue.” His optimism, however, was not shared by some families at the meeting, who said they were devastated by the news.
“To sum it all up, unless you work there, you don’t understand it. The company was like a lifelong friend,” one Nutley resident, Laura, told Patch after the meeting.
After 80 years of being Nutley’s main employer, news of the closure shook the community to the core. An estimated 1,000 workers were told on June 26 they would be laid off when the company ceases operations in December 2013.
The Roche Group released the following statement the same day: “We recognize the significant impact that this decision will have on our people and Roche is committed to doing everything it can to seek socially responsible solutions for them, as well as the communities of Nutley and Clifton,” said Tom Lyon, Nutley Site Head.
An iconic campus known for its groundbreaking pharmaceutical research, Roche stood as the last of the industrial giants that once lined Route 3. When it puts the padlock on its 127 acres next year, 72 township residents are scheduled to be among the 1,000 people to lose their jobs.
will also take with it about $9 million in tax revenue.
The site was the company's headquarters until 2009, when it acquired Genentech, a biotechnology company in California. It shifted the focus of the Nutley campus to research and development.
Commissioner Mauro Tucci underlined that promise at the meeting, saying the township planned a multi-pronged approach to addressing issues raised by Roche’s departure, including reemployment of workers and its impact on local taxes.
Though Roche executives were invited to the municipal building by Nutley’s Board of Commissioners, representatives of the Swiss-based company didn’t show up.
Instead, the board met to discuss other town business, watched by a handful of Roche employees and their families.
“It was so sad, the day I found out,” said an office worker from Roche, who didn’t want her name published. “I’ve cried going to work every day for two weeks.”
Her cousin Laura noted that Roche meant more than simply a paycheck. “They treated their employees so good,” she said. “They treated their employees like no other company.” Tuition reimbursement, companywide vacation between Christmas and New Year, welcoming children to visit parents at work and even a theatrical group, “The Roche Players” contributed to employee satisfaction.
“Behind those gates it’s a whole other world,” said Laura wistfully. “And it’s a good world.”