A Sad Ride Through Our Industrial Park

I rode a bike tonight through places that were once filled with workers and machinery, and today sit empty. It’s the South Deerfield Industrial Park, on Route 116, and I had great old memories of the hustle and bustle that once took place there.

I remember delivering shirts to a business that did something with satellites, and there was never any room in the parking lot when I’d come by. People had parked on the grass every which way, but there was just never a place to park.  Today, it’s all emptied out, the company took a great ride in its stock value after an IPO and then deflated with expectations for technical prowess or market savvy didn’t keep up with the cash flow.  For lease, screams a sign in front of the building.

Then I headed down the hill to the larger buildings in the park.  On one side sits the hulking former Disston tool making factory, which is about 270,000 square feet. This year they announced a move to China. All of the 50 employees who worked here, thankfully, found jobs in Chicoppee.

They do some things in Chicopee, but the owner of the tool company is Chinese, and the wages in his country are so much lower than here. They do much more overseas.  They are among the last toolmakers to leave the US and business has increased at many chain stores where people shop by price.

It would be take an act of God to find a tenant who can rent this whole huge building by themselves.  In a Gazette story, the manager of Disston said their new manufacturing space is about 20,500 square feet. Nobody needs football-field sized manufacturing spaces these days, except Amazon and Google. Then across the street, I saw the same kind of sign, “For Lease” next to another big building.

Most of this park is businesses who are using way, way less space then they thought they would use when they moved in. One empty building had a tower that I think was once used by Kollmorgen, the Northampton optical maker. Today, it’s all for lease. Then I biked down toward Whately, and saw a totally new industrial building that resembled a single family house.  But just bigger with large garage-sized doors on the side, and two pens out back.

“Animal Eye Care of New England,”  said the sign, and listed Isabel Jurk as the veterinarian-ophthalmologist who would treat any animal with cataracts or glaucoma that was wheeled in the door.