Most production of outdoor gear is done outside the United States, especially clothing and other softgoods, but it’s still a sad day when American manufacturing and its jobs leave for another country. Utah-based Black Diamond is moving most of its metal-based production out of its Salt Lake factory and sending it abroad. Seventy employees will lose their jobs, about 60 percent of the manufacturing workforce. The primary product affected is carabiners but also includes hexes, stoppers, and crampons.
Employees were told last week. They will be let go on a staggered basis between September and December.
The move has been in the works for two years. President John Walbrecht, in an interview with trade publication SNEWS, said, “This decision was not a reflection of the capabilities, the performance, or even the progress of our manufacturing in Salt Lake City. It was driven by the ideology of being the most innovative, design-focused brand in this space and ensuring that our designs and our innovations can be manufactured in the absolute best places in the world. We’re looking at facilities in Taiwan, but it’s still undecided.”
News of the layoffs was first posted on a Reddit climbing thread, where it was incorrectly announced that 120 jobs would be eliminated. The move and correct number of people affected was confirmed on Tuesday by SNEWS.
In a statement, the company said, “This is the culmination of a multi-year strategy that defines Black Diamond as an innovative, design-driven company and migrates away from in-house manufacturing. This has not been an easy decision, especially as it relates to the impact it will have on all of our employees. It in no way reflects the performance, progress or capability of our manufacturing team.
“While this decision was difficult to arrive at, we believe the transition improves our business, sets us up for future success in a competitive marketplace and is advantageous for our team of engineers and designers to continue to push the bounds of innovation, safety and quality-driven products.”
The Salt Lake facility will be used for assembly. BD suffered a series of product recalls between 2010 and 2016, including for avalanche packs, ski poles, and ascenders. Walbrecht said the recalls were a consideration in the decision to move the manufacturing.
Black Diamond was spun out of Chouinard Equipment in 1989, purchased by Peter Metcalf when that company went under in the face of liability lawsuits, and moved to Salt Lake City. It was purchased by Clarus in 2010. Clarus also owns Pipes avalanche transceivers, Sierra bullets, and a skin care brand.