March 24, 2010

Schumer, Brown, Gillibrand To Question State Dept In Personal Meeting Tomorrow Regarding Decision To Purchase Glassware For Us Embassies From Foreign Company Through A No-Bid Contract, Bypassing New York’s Steuben Glassware

State Dept Awarded No-Bid Contract to Company That Outsourced Work Without Inviting American Companies Like Steuben Glass To Bid

Washington, DC - Tomorrow, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Sherrod Brown, joined by representatives from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office and representatives from Steuben Glass, will press high level State Department officials regarding their decision to award a no-bid contract for glassware for U.S. embassies worldwide 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.  Schumer, Brown and Gillibrand requested that the State Department immediately explain their decision.

“Right here in Steuben County we’ve got a world-renowned glass manufacturer that employs hundreds of people, and they at the very least deserve a chance to compete for this work,” Schumer said. “This meeting will help us and Steuben Glass get to the bottom of what went wrong here and how we can fix this situation.” 

“For years, the State Department has used high-quality glassware produced in the U.S.,” Brown said. “Our domestic glass producers can compete with any others in the world, but they deserve an open and competitive procurement process. This meeting is about getting answers for American workers who produce our nation’s superior glass products.”

“If we’re going to rebuild our economy and create jobs in the Southern Tier, we need to make sure businesses here are getting a fair chance at federal contracts,” Senator Gillibrand said. “We can’t afford to outsource a single contract and a single job. Supplying glassware to more than 400 embassies and residences would open new markets worldwide and American companies like Steuben Glass deserve 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 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.

Earlier this month the Senators sent a letter to Department of State, demanding answers about how this contract was awarded, as well as asking for a copy of the contract and specific explanations.  Troublingly, the Senators have yet to receive a reply.