Less than year after moving its fire-truck manufacturing business from Summerville to plants in Pennsylvania and New York, American LaFrance LLC is shuttering those two factories and will consolidate all of its operations in South Carolina.
The vehicle maker on Monday announced it will close its plants in Hamburg, N.Y., and Ephrata, Pa., by May 31.
Richard Ball, American LaFrance's director of marketing and dealer operations, said the company's main customers are government agencies, and many of those are coping with serious financial shortfalls as the recession eats into tax revenue.
IN addition to fire engines and other emergency vehicles, the company makes garbage trucks.
"Just about all of our business is municipal-related, and municipal budgets obviously are seeing an effect this year. But they're really going to see an effect next year," Ball said. "We have to make some tough decisions and ... this is our newest plant and our most modern plant. It's a tough choice, but you change with the times."
American LaFrance announced last July that it was shifting its fire-truck line to Ephrata and Hamburg, partly to open up room for prospective new manufacturing ventures at its nearly 2-year-old headquarters off Jedburg Road.
Robert Bord, who learned he had lost his job as welder at the Pennsylvania plant Monday, said work in the Ephrata factory had been slow and that partially completed fire trucks were sitting idle for months awaiting parts.
"We all knew something was coming. We did not expect this," he said.
Bord said it was obvious that the work was being moved back to Summerville even though the company did not state that specifically.
"We were told that people who are losing their jobs up here could — could — relocate to South Carolina, but they would not pay any travel expenses or anything like that," he said.
For more details, see Wednesday's editions of The Post and Courier.