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Bus Manufacturer Says Plattsburgh Plant Will Close

Prevost buses
FabulousCoach/Wikimedia Commons

A bus manufacturer in Plattsburgh has filed notice with the New York State Department of Labor that it will close its plant in April.  As WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports, local officials hope the move is precautionary and needed contracts will be realized.
Prevost is a manufacturer of upscale buses and high-end motor homes and specialty conversions.  The manufacturing plant in Plattsburgh is located next to Nova Bus, which specializes in building transit buses.  Both are owned by the Volvo Group, a global transportation manufacturer.

The warn notice filed by Prevost Bus states that the company is closing its plant in the Town of Plattsburgh for economic reasons.  Other than noting that 55 employees are affected, no other details are provided.

Plattsburgh Town Supervisor Michael Cashman is surprised that the plant, which opened in late 2014 and has since expanded, filed a notice of closure.   “Our region is certainly defined by the transportation industry.  Overall our region I think is poised to continue to grow in this arena long term.”

Cashman says the transportation manufacturing industry is driven by contracts and is cautiously optimistic that Prevost is filing the warning as precaution.   “From what I’ve been able to glean thus far is that they are awaiting some contracts and this was really more about process, to give notice to their employees that should a contract not be getting through the pipeline in time that they may have to take those actions. They’ve been a good regional partner in providing good paying jobs and they have to play out with what is been presented to them and we’ll see what happens.  Right now, again, my understanding is that this is about process. It’s about giving notice to employees.  I’m cautiously optimistic that it won’t get to that level.”

SUNY Plattsburgh Regional Economist Colin Read says warn notices filed with the state Department of Labor are often preemptive in nature.   “Industries are required to notify Department of Labor if there’s going to be a major labor change especially if they’ve received government money and support.  So, sometimes manufacturers will do this just as a preemptive strike to keep their options open.  Hopefully this is just merely a formality they’re going through and not something that’s going to be realized.  After all they’ve only really been in town here and in production for about a year now.”

The warn notice lists the reason for dislocation as economic.  Read notes that Prevost is a Canadian based company and the current exchange rate is not compatible for cross border trade and manufacturing.  “I’m sure they’ve been watching the success of this plant over the last year. At that same time we’ve seen a dramatic plunge in the value of the Canadian dollar, which means that any U.S. manufacturing becomes more expensive.  It certainly would help if the Canadian dollar started strengthening but many economists believe that it could even slide a little bit more.  I’ve even heard numbers as low as 60 cents for the Canadian dollar given the very, very weak global situation for oil prices right now. The Canadian dollar we can probably expect to be weak for at least another year or two though.”

Nova Bus and Prevost Public Affairs Advisor Anne Louise Chauvette told WAMC this afternoon that the state was notified in compliance with the Warn Act.   "We had to send a letter to employees in the government to inform them that we might stop the production on the Prevost line only. So it is a preventive measure.  Hopefully these letters won’t be used because we are negotiating and working hard to finalize a contract.  If that contract is awarded then everybody will remain in position and these letters will be useless."

According to an analysis by Read, the 55 jobs at Prevost are worth about $76 million in the regional economy.

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