Deerfield dreading municipal impact of Channing Bete closure

  • The Channing Bete Company in South Deerfield ceased operations on June 30. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/23/2019 10:14:20 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Channing L. “Joe” Bete Jr. had tears in his eyes in April, when he and son Michael G. Bete spoke about the impending closure of the family business.

Joe Bete’s father, Channing L. Bete Sr., in 1954 founded The Channing Bete Company, which has produced booklets, folders, handbooks, presentations and other publications often pertaining to public health and wellness, for 65 years. Changing technologies and the remaining effects of the 2008 worldwide financial crisis resulted in the company ceasing operations June 30.

Joe and Mike Bete said they feel awful about having to lay off 105 employees and they set up severance pay to help aid the workers through the transition. Six employees live in South Deerfield.

But what is the municipal impact of such a large employer closing up shop?

Deerfield Selectboard Chairman Trevor McDaniel said having such a wonderful neighbor dissolve will be detrimental to the town.

“It’s devastating,” he said. “We really want to see some economic development go in there.”

The Channing Bete Company was located in Greenfield until 1978, when it moved to the roughly 100,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility on a 40-acre campus at 1 Community Place in South Deerfield.

“It’s such a loss to have them go out due to technology. I wish we could have found a way to keep them open,” McDaniel added. “It’s a wonderful facility. It has great aspects. It’s a great campus for a tech start-up … a great way to foster jobs in the area.”

President Mike Bete (pronounced “beet”) said the company’s real estate taxes are approximately $130,000 per year.

Interim Town Administrator Diana Schindler said the closure will not have an immediate effect on Deerfield’s budget because the Bete family still owns the property, and thus still pays taxes. However, she said, the formula the town uses will assess the campus at a lower value the longer it is vacant.

Mike Bete said the family has received interest in the property and there have been numerous showings to potential buyers.

“Interest has been at the local, regional and national levels,” he said in an email. “Multiple parties continue to explore ownership options.”

Channing Bete paid $1,000 in personal property taxes in fiscal year 2019. According to the Deerfield Assessors Offices, the personal property of a facility like The Channing Bete Company in South Deerfield includes elements such as underground wiring and conduits. The company’s sewer bill for FY19 was $24,638.30, according to Barbara J. Hancock, who is the town clerk, treasurer and collector in Deerfield.

Mike Bete also mentioned that the company has supported several local institutions over the years — such as the schools, sports teams, recreation department, Tilton Library and South County EMS. Also, the company donated the land that now serves as the site of the South Deerfield Fire District.

“We’ve allowed soccer leagues to use our fields, and this week we donated all of our unused office supplies and some office furniture to the local school district,” he said last week.

Schindler said the Channing Bete campus is a great economic opportunity for any business, and town officials are working with state legislators and the Massachusetts Office of Business Development for help in publicizing its availability.

McDaniel said Deerfield is home to Deerfield Academy and Eaglebrook School, both on tax-exempt land, and the town cannot afford another similar education facility.

“A charter school would just be completely devastating because you lose the tax base, and then you’d be losing kids to it. Charter schools put such a drain on public education, creating two classes of education,” said McDaniel, who also sits on the Deerfield Elementary School Committee. “I’m not a fan of charter schools one bit, and to have one in our backyard would be devastating.”

In April, Mike and Joe Bete explained the first position eliminations would occur June 24, and most employees would be released between June 24 and July 3. They also said a handful of workers will stay on a bit longer as the company dissolves. The company’s health insurance plan will end July 31.

The June 30 closure date reflects when Channing Bete’s contract with the American Heart Association ended. The company had been AHA’s largest distributor.

Joe Bete took over as company president in 1967, and the business became a multi-million-dollar corporation over the next 30 years. Mike Bete became president in 1995, when his father retired.


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