May 13--NAPPANEE -- ABC Companies announced that by Sept. 15 it will close a plant at 504 S. Oakland Ave., putting as many as 160 out of work.
But at least some of those employees will be put back to work on a new contract that ABC Companies has secured to build double-decker transit buses for the North American market.
The double-decker buses will be built in a nearby plant. Work should begin ramping up on that multi-year contract in July.
At the same time, work will be winding down in the plant that has been overhauling buses for Greyhound Lines since September 2010. The first phase of the project was expected to last 18 months, but through extensions, ABC was able to refurbish about 750 buses for the intercity transportation provider, said Jon Savitz, senior vice president of business development for ABC.
Though bumping rights do not exist, about half of the Nappanee workers will have the opportunity to work on the new project toward the end of the year, Savitz said. Others might have the opportunity to transfer to an ABC plant in Elkhart that builds shuttle buses.
The company filed WARN -- Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification -- paperwork on Monday.
With administrative offices in Minnesota and Florida, ABC located in Elkhart County in 2010 because of the supply of skilled workers in the transportation industry and a strong base of suppliers, said Savitz.
Though this new project also could have been handled elsewhere, the company decided to remain in Nappanee because of those key ingredients, he said, adding that ABC will build two models of double-decker buses for Alexander Dennis, a Scottish bus builder.
Alexander Dennis expects that it will need about 75 to 100 buses per year, Savitz said, adding that ABC expects to be moving into production mode by September.
ABC also purchased Ameritrans Bus of Elkhart in 2012. That business produces small to midsize buses and employs roughly 75.
Beyond employees who find new employment at ABC, the remainder should be easily absorbed by the booming RV industry, which actually is starting to worry about a shortage of workers.
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