$18 million offer not enough to save plant: TrentonWorks to close
The News - Trenton
Offers of over $18 million in federal and provincial government assistance wasn't enough to keep the doors to TrentonWorks open.
Central Nova MP Peter MacKay released the letter he sent to Greenbrier president and CEO William Furman this afternoon, which includes details of the deal the federal and provincial governments offered to the Oregon-based company in an effort to keep th railcar plant open.
"Given additional direct financial support from Greenbrier for this strategy, there are a number of funding initiatives that could be considered by our respective governments," MacKay wrote. "These initiatives could result in financial assistance of over $18 million ($3.5 million federal and $14.5 million provincial) provided the elgibility parameters of our respective programs are met."
Trenton council also agreed to reduce the commercial tax rate for the plant by 14 cents.
It wasn't enough for Greenbrier's board of directors, which announced in a news release received this morning from the Oregon-based company, it announced it will "close its unprofitable railcar manufacturing facility in Nova Scotia, Canada during its third fiscal quarter, upon completion of a current railcar order."
Losses incurred by TrentonWorks during the second quarter were approximately $2.2 million, Greenbrier stated.
The closure will not affect Nova Forge, which leases space from TrentonWorks for its operation. The forge is owned by a Texas-based company.
Despite the news that TrentonWorks will be closing its doors by the end of the month, there's no word yet as to the fate of the plant, says general manager Bob Hickey.
Hickey, who attended the board of director's meeting in Oregon Tuesday where the decision was made, says the board didn't discuss whether they would level the plant or hang a for sale sign on the front door.
"It wasn't discussed at the board meeting what would happen after today," Hickey said. "We'd entertain all ideas that come to us, but nothing about the subject has been addressed.
Sandy Stephenson, communications officer for TrentonWorks, said the 330 employees still working at the plant were brought into the plant's lunchroom and told the news early this morning.
"God bless them, I have to give them a pat on the back, they turned around and went right back to work," he said.
Union president Dave Fanning said the mood at the plant was glooming after that 8 a.m. meeting.
"The boys are just trying to absorb it all," he said. "There's a lot of shocked people. We'd been very hopeful that everything we were doing, between the management, the government and the union would be enough to keep the plan open."
This is the first time in the plant's history that it's been closed down entirely, he added, although it has often changed hands.
"It's different this time," he said. "We're not just changing hands anymore."
Hickey says he regrets Greenbrier's decision to close the plant.
"The decision by Greenbrier to close TrentonWorks is dreadful news for us all," Hickey said. "I live in this community and I know what a real blow this is to workers and their families."
Those are the people who will be affected first and foremost by the closure, he added, but the impact will be felt much wider.
"Local businesses throughout Pictou County supply the plant and our workers are know to spend their hard-earned pay primarily within the community," Hickey said.
The company will provide coaching in resume preparation, interview skills and support counseling to the workers before the closure, he added.
The closure comes after a last-ditched effort by the federal and provincial governments to make an offer attractive enough to the company to keep the railcar plant's doors open.
The deal involved a financial sum that would allow TrentonWorks to diversify and build industrial products for the Alberta oil sands and military products.
Pictou Centre MLA Pat Dunn heard the news of the closure just moments ago.
"I'm still sitting here in shock, trying to believe it's true," he said.
Dunn said the provincial and federal offer involved "millions and millions" of dollars, but wouldn't give an exact number of the amount put on the table for Greenbrier's board of directors yesterday.
"I'm extremely disappointed in Greenbrier," Dunn said. "The government put forth a substantial amount of money - and we're talking millions and millions here - to assist in the diversification strategy...but obviously, the shareholders are definitely not committed to the area."
The union hasn't given up yet, however, said Fanning.
"We're not giving up," he said. "We're gathering our thoughts, but we need to convince Greenbrier that the plant is needed here desperately and that it's time to diversify – and if not them, then we need to convince someone else."
Keep checking back for more updates. The News will post them as they come.
Three hundred thirty jobs may not seem like much, but considering there's less than 48, 000 people in my entire county (including children, the elderly, etc), that's a pretty significant amount of people to be losing their jobs in one go. Not to mention the money that Trenton Works brought to the county in general and Trenton in particular.
To see the article on the webpage, go here.