Fitzgerald Glider blames EPA rules — which Diane Black sought to block — as it cuts production, lays off employees

Fitzgerald Glider Kits, the Crossville-based company that stirred controversy earlier this year over dealings with U.S. Rep. Diane Black involving EPA rules for the old diesel engines it uses in producing trucks, has slashed its production and is laying off many employees, reports the Upper Cumberland Business Journal. The company blames EPA rules, which Black had pushed to repeal.

While Jon Toomey, the company’s director of government affairs, declined to give details on the number of individuals impacted thus far, sources have estimated at least 70 have already been let go. The company has reportedly employed as many as 700 people prior to recent events. 

“We are on our third round of layoffs and have unfortunately let go a number of employees and expect additional layoffs before this rule is finalized,” Toomey told the UCBJ. “We’d rather not put a number on it yet since we have not yet made all decisions on additional layoffs. The most difficult part is having to lay off employees who mean so much to this company. We are fighting every day to resolve this regulatory mess.”

Toomey said the initial phase of the Obama-era EPA rule has limited Fitzgerald’s production to 300 trucks for this year – a significant decrease from the 3,000 or so units the company has reportedly produced in previous years. 

“The Fitzgerald’s have made it their mission to provide for this region and other parts of the country,” Toomey said. “This is a prime example of how government regulations can severely impact communities. We are hopeful, however, in President (Donald) Trump’s agenda and his promise to save American jobs. (EPA) Administrator (Scott) Pruitt has done a great job in recognizing agency overreach and the cleanup at EPA has not been easy.

“I think you’re seeing how difficult it is to rollback job killing regulations, even with an administration whose main goal is to deregulate,” Toomey continued. “We will continue to work with the government in achieving a positive outcome and are hopeful of a resolution in the near future. The negative press has been driven by those who have an agenda and want to ignore the up-cycling done by the company. Those detractors include foreign companies trying to pad their bottom line.”

Toomey told the UCBJ that these recent rounds of layoffs is a direct result of the delay in repealing the EPA Phase II ruling. The ruling isn’t the only recent issue affecting the local trucking giant.

In September 2017, Fitzgerald’s namesake and founder, Tommy Fitzgerald, voiced his opposition and dissatisfaction with the IRS’ tax dispute resolution process and excise tax before the House Committee on Ways and Means. 

“Fitzgerald has been the subject of six IRS examinations over the last two decades,” a copy of his statement to representatives reads.  

Of those examinations, the company was reportedly successful in appealing the IRS’ decision in five of the cases. However, the sixth and final one reportedly resulted in roughly $70 million of tax, penalties, and interest against the company. 

“Fitzgerald now faces grave uncertainty,” Tommy’s September memo stated. “Exam’s objection imperils 400 direct assembly jobs and thousands of indirect jobs.”

Note: Initial post on Black’s dealings with Fitzgerald, including political contributions, is HERE. More recent post on Black taking a gubernatorial campaign trip on a private jet linked to the company is HERE.

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