The Urethane Blog

Bayer Exits Robinson

Bayer to close site in Robinson by 2020, cut nearly 600 local positions

Tom Davidson
| Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, 10:42 a.m.

Global pharmaceutical giant Bayer Corp. announced Tuesday it is closing its Robinson campus within the next two years.

It will mean the loss of 569 jobs and 96 contractors, the company said in a statement.

The news shocked Robinson officials, but the Airport Area Chamber of Commerce believed Bayer employees could be hired by other companies in the area.

The company once touted its Robinson campus as its U.S. headquarters.

The administrative functions of Bayer’s U.S. operations are now being consolidated to best support the agriculture business, headquartered in St. Louis, and its healthcare business, which is based in Whippany, N.J., the company said.

Bayer announced in November a global workforce reduction of 12,000 jobs by 2021 in an effort to improve productivity and profitability. In 2017, Bayer employed 99,800 people worldwide.

Bayer’s other operations in Pennsylvania, including Bayer HealthCare sites in Indianola, O’Hara and Saxonburg, won’t be affected by the move, the company said.

Rumors of a move went around periodically, but the Robinson officials had no warning that the company was planning to make the cuts. Robinson Township Manager Frank L. Piccolino said the township’s first concern was for the families of affected employees. He said the Bayer positions were high-paying jobs.

“We’re shocked. We did not see this coming at all,” Piccolino said. “We feel bad for the families who worked there.”

It was too soon to project the financial impacts on the township of losing Bayer, Piccolino said.

Employees at the Robinson site performed administrative functions including information technology, human resources, accounting/finance and legal work to support Bayer’s U.S. divisions, the company said.

Airport Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Heck said the announcement would be a tough pill for the airport corridor to swallow. Heck wasn’t blindsided by the announcement. It follows a trend of global companies consolidating their operations, and it comes after Bayer acquired agrochemical giant Monsanto last year.

Heck was confident that the growing business corridor would be able to offer jobs to the out-of-work Bayer employees.

“Those jobs can easily be absorbed by the companies that are out here,” Heck said.

The Monsanto acquisition doubled the size of Bayer’s business to more than $16 billion in sales, with a workforce of 20,000 at 300 locations in the U.S., the company said.

It was a partnership with Monsanto that first brought Bayer to Pittsburgh. In 1958, the companies formed Mobay, a joint venture that marketed polyurethanes in the U.S. Mobay, which originally had its headquarters in St. Louis before it relocated it to Pittsburgh, had a staff of 35 in the city and annual sales around $25 million, according to Bayer.

Before Bayer CEO Attila Molnar retired in 2008, he wrote that Pittsburgh was the “home and the hub of Bayer’s success in North America.”

“Pittsburgh also is a city that has provided our employees — the source of every Bayer achievement — with an incomparable sense of community,” Molnar wrote in 2008 in a look-back at Bayer’s 50-year history in Pittsburgh. “I am immensely proud of the inventive, dedicated people of Bayer — both past and present — whose talents have brought us to this moment in Pittsburgh, a city that has done so much to foster our company’s success.”

Molnar praised Pittsburgh’s work ethic, its universities and schools, its neighborhoods with affordable housing and its diverse recreational activities. He said Bayer has given Pittsburgh high-paying jobs that contributed millions to the local economy each year and stewardship programs to protect the environment. The company established the Bayer USA Foundation in Pittsburgh to direct grants and other donations locally and around the country.

The company will honor commitments to nonprofits and charities it supported locally through 2020, the company said.

“This is certainly a difficult decision given the impact it will have on our colleagues and their families, and the important role the site has played in our company’s history. We have an extremely talented workforce in Robinson and a proud and rich history. We thank our colleagues for their hard work and dedication over the years,” the company statement said.

The closing will take place in a “thoughtful, orderly manner” over the next two years.

Allegheny Conference on Community Development CEO Stephani Pashman said the Pittsburgh region owed a lot to Bayer.

“Bayer’s direct influence on our economy, as well as on our quality of life through its corporate social responsibility, spanned generations,” Pashman said. “Bayer helped to pin Pittsburgh on the global map.”

In spite of Bayer’s move, other companies are growing in the region, Pashman said, and the demand for the type of skilled workers employed by Bayer is high.

There were more than 19,000 clerical and administrative support positions, 25,000 finance positions and nearly 9,000 human resource positions that were posted in 2017-18 in the Pittsburgh region, according to the Allegheny Conference, which based its numbers off of data from Burning Glass Technologies, a company the specializes in labor market analysis.

Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-487-7208, or via Twitter @TribDavidson.