ONEIDA — The Oneida Rotary Club has awarded Matthew Roberts, of Sherrill Manufacturing and the Wards 1, 2, 3 Supervisor in the city of Oneida, with the Bill Fariel Award for Vocational Excellence.
The award, Rotary officials said, is given to those who best provide opportunities to youth, work for the relief of the special needs of others or work to improve the quality of life in the greater Oneida community.
Past recipients of the award include Jackie Starks, former BOCES Superintendent; Tom Marshall, Jr. and Charlie Wilson of Liberty Auto; Oneida Supervisor John Reinhardt; and Hank Leo, CEO of the YMCA of the Greater Tri-Valley.
“In 2004, Matt and several others became aware that Oneida Limited management had decided to close the factory,” Leo said.
“He had a choice. At 40 years old with an engineering degree and an MBA from Syracuse, Matt could have left his home town of Oneida and taken a job just about anywhere,” Leo said. “He instead chose to stay in Oneida and fight to save the factory.”
It was a challenge to save Oneida Limited, a factory that gave Sherrill, the Silver City, its name.
Roberts and Greg Owens worked together to save the factory and 15 years later, Sherrill Manufacturing is on its feet with a bright future.
“Matt has now become involved in the community, volunteering his time to help bring back Oneida to the glory days,” Leo said.
“I believe that awarding Matt with the Bill Fariel Award would be an excellent way for the community to thank him for his efforts,” the YMCA leader added.
Leo said it was a pleasure and an honor to award Roberts — a lifelong friend, classmate, college roommate, and a well-deserving leader, with the Bill Fariel Award.
Roberts was called up and presented with the award, embracing his childhood friend with a laugh.
Working for Oneida Limited, Roberts said he could see himself working in management, “...running the place” one day.
And so he did just that in 2004,
calling it his dream job.
“Nine months into, I get called into the sales office and told they’re shutting the factory down,” Roberts said.
“I’m thinking ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ We worked so hard, we had a great group of people, and it was the place to work in the area.”
Dejected, Roberts said he was sitting in his office before deciding he wasn’t going to leave the country, looking to “...find the cheapest fork overseas.”
Instead, he and Owens bought the factory and saved it from destruction. “We were the only ones in line to buy the factory,” Roberts explained. “If we didn’t buy the factory, it would have been bulldozed. All the equipment would have been scrapped.”
“Fifteen years later, I’m proud to tell you that our business is booming,” Roberts said.
“Since last year at this time, we’ve gone from 40 people to 68, and we continue to grow. And it’s all because of the people,” Robert added.