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Big changes coming to B&L
Rochester, N.Y. -- Layoffs of local Bausch & Lomb workers are expected after Canada's Valeant Pharmaceuticals International announced its plan to cut 10 to 15 percent of jobs worldwide. Those job cuts would come from the combined workforce of Valeant's 7,000 employees and Bausch & Lomb's 11,000 once Valeant's purchase of B&L is completed.
Regulatory approval of Valeant's purchase of B&L is expected in early August. The company announced its intentions to buy B&L in May for $8.7 billion.
Valeant's memo to employees explains that streamlining the workforce and reducing duplication after the B&L takeover is aimed at achieving $800 million in savings by 2014.
The company plans to retain manufacturing and research jobs in the U.S. including those in Rochester. Valeant also plans to capitalize on Bausch & Lomb's name recognition by creating a new division of the company called Bausch & Lomb Eye Health.
That same memo also spells out a desire to operate Bausch & Lomb Eye Health from corporate headquarters in New Jersey with fewer than 100 employees.
In Rochester, B&L currently employs about 1,500 people according to a Valeant spokeswoman who said a few hundred remain at Bausch & Lomb World Headquarters but most are at the company's Goodman Street facility.
Many expect the consolidation to greatly impact the corporate workforce remaining in Rocheser.
"Are we talking 600, 800, 1,000 people?" wondered Mark Peterson of Greater Rochester Enterprise. "That I don't know for sure, but I can tell you it's going to be a big number."
Peterson said his focus, and concern, is how quickly these local workers are let go and how long the severance package keeps them afloat. Valeant has said it will honor existing Bausch & Lomb severance package agreements but details of those arrangements are not known.
"Do I think that these folks will have any trouble getting a job? No. My issue is would they be able to get a job right here in their hometown quickly if this is that dramatic? No. That's the concern," said Peterson. "We can absorb the talent and re-position it into our economy given the sufficient time but to put 1,000 people on the street all in one day, which seems to be some of the thinking, that's problematic for our community and we're hoping the company will maybe respond in a little bit different way than that."
"It's not good news, I don't want to kid you I would prefer that it didn't happen," said Mayor Tom Richards who added that he met with Valeant executives in Washington D.C. just last week. "It's just further evidence that we're a different place than we used to be, we're being transformed here and it's up to us to do something about it.
"Bausch & Lomb has not been a major employer in this city in many years," Richards continued. "They're an important employer and they certainly have a high identity here but in terms of volume and numbers of employees that changed quite some time ago this is just sort of the final confirmation of that."
Bausch & Lomb's World Headquarters, also known as One Bausch & Lomb Place, opened in 1995. The building has been listed for sale since 2010 and downtown developers expect the announcement from Valeant signals an eventual change in ownership of the building too.
"Based on what we're hearing I wouldn't be surprised if they put it up for sale," said Heidi Zimmer-Meyer of Rochester Downtown Development. "The tricky business is that unless they discount the price it's going to be tough to sell a building with that much vacancy at what would be full-market value."
Zimmer-Meyer tells 13WHAM News that the building has 343,700 square feet of leasable space but 73,249 square feet is currently vacant. That amounts to a 21.3% vacancy that is likely to grow if and when B&L employees currently assigned to the building are let go.
While a valuable asset, Zimmer-Meyer suspects the price would have to be lowered on the building in order to draw interest from a buyer who would need to recruit tenants from the start.
"That is a real gorgeous building, it's been called the Taj Mahal in the optics industry," said Zimmer-Meyer.
Read the letter from Valeant here.