Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer, Sherrod Brown and Kirsten Gillibrand’s announced that the Department of State will rebid a contract for glassware for U.S. embassies worldwide. The Department of State had previously awarded the contract to a company that immediately outsourced all the glassware manufacturing work to a foreign manufacturer. The Senators said that American manufacturers of the formal stemware were not even invited to bid for the contract – leaving companies like New York’s Steuben Glass out in the cold. Today the Senators announced that the State Department will offer Steuben Glass and other domestic manufactures a chance to bid for the remaining four years of the five year contract. Bidding is expected to begin next month and the contract to be awarded for production starting in September.
During today’s meeting, attended by the three Senators, representatives of Steuben Glass and high level State Department officials, the State Department admitted that they had made an error when searching for domestic manufacturer of glassware. They are required by law to only accept lead-free glassware, and they had determined, erroneously, that no U.S. manufacturer was capable of producing it. The State Department admitted their market survey was not thorough enough, and they will now apply the legal rights at their disposal to rebid the contract in a fair manner with a preference for domestic manufactures. The vast majority of the $5.4 million has not been spent.
“This is what we wanted to hear today,” said Schumer. “Now Steuben Glass will have a chance to compete fair and square for this enormously prestigious contract, as they should have had from the beginning. I was gratified to hear the State Department admit to its mistakes and am confident that they will address this problem going forward.”
“I am extremely pleased with the State Department’s decision to reopen this contract in the next few months for domestic glass manufacturers,” Brown said. “This is a great first step for American manufacturers like Steuben who make high-quality glassware. Whether it’s glassware for our embassies or wind turbines for our energy, we need to ensure U.S. taxpayer dollars go toward domestic job creation and economic development.”
“I am pleased that the State Department has promised to review this contract, which could allow Steuben Glass and other American firms to compete,” said Senator Gillibrand. “As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I will thoroughly review the State Department’s process to help Steuben Glass get their fair chance to compete and to make sure American companies are not disadvantaged in the future. This contract would open new markets worldwide, and Steuben Glass deserves to have that opportunity.”
Schumer, Brown and Gillibrand said the contract was awarded without any competition, without any public notification, and without any formal bid process. As a result of this non-public process, the stemware contract was awarded to a small design firm – a firm that itself appears not to manufacture anything. A company press release indicates that the design firm has subcontracted the contract for the manufacture of the stemware to a company that will produce the stemware in Sweden. Supplying glassware for over 400 American embassies and embassy residences would be a huge boost for a New York based company like Steuben Glass and the entire community in Steuben County. Having Steuben’s glassware used worldwide will only increase the reputation of its business and has the potential to bring the company’s goods to new markets.
The Senators had said that awarding a manufacturing contract to a firm that obviously could only fulfill the contract by outsourcing all the manufacturing work was wrong headed and the process by which the contract was given out, as well as how the contract is consistent with federal procurement rules on subcontracting, needs to be explained
New York’s Steuben Glass, owned by Columbus, Ohio-based Schottenstein Stores Corporation, has a long and rich history as a renowned art glass manufacturer. The Senators argued that Steuben Glass, along with all other qualified U.S. manufacturers, should have had an opportunity to bid on this high-profile contract. Steuben Glass has had a relationship with every Presidential Administration going back to Truman Administration. It is known the world over as a prominent leader in the field of high end art glass design and has been producing glassware in Corning, New York, for over 100 years. Steuben Glass also is a major contributor to the workforce in the Steuben County region, as well as a huge source of pride for its workers and those who call the region home.