Take Hodges Badge Departure as Another Warning Sign


As Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo spins Rhode Island’s economic numbers and the news media touts her “wooing” of blockchain companies, an article  from the Newport Daily News a couple of weeks ago hasn’t gotten much attention:

Hodges Badge Co. Inc. has made the “difficult decision” to close its Portsmouth plant this November and consolidate production at its Washington, Missouri, facility, according to a company statement.

“Hodges Badge Company Inc. is a 98-year-old family-owned company and we consider each one of our employees as part of our extended family,” according to the statement attributed to Rick Hodges, the company president and CEO. “We greatly appreciate being part of the Portsmouth community and are truly grateful to all the employees who contributed to our success over the past several decades. This is a necessary and critical economic decision that we do not take lightly, and we will be working with each of our employees to provide compensation packages and on-site outplacement services.”

The facility in Portsmouth opened in 1974 and employs around 92 people.  Rhode Island just won’t allow the company to justify keeping those jobs here.

To be sure, that’s not only a tax and regulation issue.  For Hodges Badge, energy played a big role, too:

Despite other business reforms aimed at reducing electricity costs, the plant still consumed 451,000 kilowatts of power for all of 2008 at a cost of $91,000, according to a Daily News article in July 2009. That was twice as much as the company paid to power its Missouri plant.

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“I live here and I love it here, but how long can you realistically sustain that?” Rick Hodges said at that time.

Imagine how the current political landscape looks from that perspective.  The governor is touting more crony wind deals; NIMBYism is hindering an effort to increase power production in the state; and schemes to make energy more expensive through carbon taxing are a regular feature of every legislative session and may explode into law any year.

Rick Hodges was vocally against the toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge, and it can’t have been lost on him that tolls are proliferating in the state and could return at any time.  Add in the recent mandatory-sick-leave law and the push for extremely radical “equal pay” legislation.  At some point, business owners must tire of always feeling vulnerable.  Any given legislative session could be the end of their operations for some money grab or progressive identity politics impulse.

  • guest

    Justin, businesses open and close every day. Everything in the last two paragraphs of your post is speculation, is some cases bordering on the absurd.

  • Merle The Monster

    The company’s own words tell another story. From their website is their version of recent company history…

    n 2008 Rick decided to explore renewable energy, and sought to put our windy hilltop location to use. A series of consultants and studies later, we applied to the state of Rhode Island for a grant to help with the cost of a wind turbine – and were awarded $225,000 – about ¼ of the projected cost. We also applied for grants under the ARRA (Recovery Act) and were awarded approximately $125,000 there as well. Getting money was probably easier than getting the turbine. Our supplier was unreliable, parts took forever to appear, and the top of the tower was made incorrectly. Despite all of the setbacks, the turbine was completed in May of 2012, and has been generating power ever since. It makes about 250,000 kwh annually. We are proud to be the only factory in all of Rhode Island generating a substantial portion of its power from the wind – doing everything that we can for the environment.
    During 2009 we skirted the worst of the recession. Wholesale business took the worst hit, but the Equestrian and Dog show markets remained robust. We got into social media with a dog blog, Twitter account and Facebook pages. We redid the website again. We added two more engravers. Sales of engraved items really began to take off and we completed our eighth 3G printing press for hot stamping ribbon.
    2011 saw us purchase MelRose Ribbon of Fresno, CA. Their shop was packed up and quickly incorporated into our Missouri operation. We are happy to have a number of their California customers on our customer list today.
    In 2012 we introduced a catalog targeting the Cat Show market. 2012 was also the year that we really embraced UV printing to add color to our product lines. From nothing, we grew to having 3 Mimaki UV printers in just a year. They are being used to produce full color plaques, acrylics, dog tags and especially medals. Everyone loves a splash of color, and this machine does it better than anything that I have seen.
    In 2013 we continued adding to our equipment line – adding several more engraving machines. We continued investing in our people with training classes in both plants covering topics like Lean Manufacturing and supervisor skills. After 80 years, Scher Fabric closed their operation in Cumberland, RI, and we moved our business to the other two fabric companies – Hubscher and Denali. We also started importing our own silver trays directly from China. Better quality and a more certain source of supply than when we bought all our silver through distributors.
    During 2014 we upgraded more printing presses and installed solar panels at the factory in Missouri. We were running out of room again, so Rick began planning a larger factory in Washington, MO. In September of 2014 we purchased Southeast Ribbon and Badge in North Carolina and in December we purchased Garden Spot Ribbon. Also in 2014 we released our redesigned Recognition catalog and a new website to match for Hodges Recognition at http://www.hodgesrecognition.com
    During 2015 we built a new building in Washington, MO and moved out of our two existing buildings. For the first time in many years all of our manufacturing activities in Missouri are efficiently contained under one roof.
    In 2016 we were privileged to produce a new line of UV printed tiles for TJ Maxx and HomeGoods. Sales on our website zoomed past $1 million annually. We redesigned our medal lines and increased the number of items we are directly importing to include lead crystal glass, medals, trays and plaques.
    Finally, some words of wisdom from Jim Hodges – author of most of this history; “As I read over the list I am impressed by the following. Only one of the significant ideas that made Hodges Badge Company grow was mine, and that was the winter sale. Just about everything else was somebody else’s idea that I listened to, expanded upon, or encouraged. To make a Company grow you just have to listen to good ideas and then see that the best ideas are acted upon.”