Seventy-seven former Bak USA employees began looking for new jobs on Friday. They were all laid off Thursday when the computer manufacturing company headquartered in Buffalo closed its doors.
Ashley Bankston is one of those workers. She was a technician for Bak USA, and joined the company just months after its opening.
“They broke up a family,” Bankston said. “Bak USA really was a family until yesterday.”
“The additional, unanticipated expenses associated with the tariffs imposed by the White House were a deciding factor in our ultimate decision to close,” CEO J.P. Bak said Thursday as he announced the company’s closure.
It came as a shock to Bankston. She says she loved working for the company. That’s why she was still wearing a pullover with the Bak USA logo one day after it closed.
“My daughter looks up to me. I was a role model. I’m still a role model,” Bankston said. “When you have a dream and you believe in something, just because you don’t work there does not cancel that dream. I love this company.”
She loves it for what it stood for. Bak USA opened its doors officially in January 2015, and enjoyed tax breaks as a Start-Up NY winner. It was a company staffed, in part, by refugees who built computers for kids.
Bankston says she found out the company was closing Thursday afternoon, with no prior warning. While she felt respected by Bak leaders while she worked there, she didn’t feel respected on Thursday.
“Business is business. You can’t control it,” Bankston said. “So I don’t fault them for that. But what I do fault them for is leaving us out to dry like that.”
“I felt like we should have been on the same page. We should have talked about this as a company.
“What happened yesterday, It wasn’t fair to us. It wasn’t right.”
On September 21st, Tom Golisano, a Bak investor, was in Buffalo. It sparked speculation the company was in trouble. That day, an agreement was reached for co-founders J.P. and Ulla Bak to buyout the company. A spokesperson denied rumors the company would close.
“(T)he rumors that Bak USA is shutting its doors are patently false,” spokeswoman Samantha Pierce said. “Bak USA is and will continue to be in operation as a social enterprise building computers in Buffalo.”
“Well as you can see, it’s false,” Bankston said while reading Pierce’s statement. “As you can see, as of yesterday, everyone ws let go.”
Empire State Development officials said the organization was “disappointed” by Bak’s closure on Friday. They also offered help for the 77 employees laid off.
“New York State will work to provide any possible assistance to the laid off workers, including deploying the Department of Labor’s Unemployment Strikeforce, as they search for new employment in the region,” said ESD officials in a statement.