Pembina, North Dakota (population 480), is braced to lose nearly 200 jobs in 2022.

Having faced off with Mother Nature's flooding in the spring of 2022- Pembina, Pembina County, and surrounding communities will face another catastrophe this year. After a nearly two-year-long study, a major employer has decided to pull out

In July 2020, NFI Group Inc. (“NFI”) announced NFI Forward, a transformational initiative intended to create a more efficient and integrated company. As part of the initiative, a dedicated team conducted several feasibility projects to optimize capacity, consolidate operations, and offset pandemic-related impacts.

This is not a takedown of Motor Coach Industries (MCI) or their parent company New Flyer Industries, I'm simply trying to make sure the impact story on Pembina is clear. It's gonna leave a big mark. The more rural you are the more difficult it becomes to find suitable wages outside of the agriculture infrastructure.  So if you don't have land, you need to earn a living in other ways. For decades, Motor Coach Industries provided those employment opportunities in the area.

April 2021,  Randy Hummel, a 27-year MCI mechanic surveys the future

 Hummel said the plant has the highest paying jobs and best benefits of any employer in the area, and that its closure would be a major financial hit for the employees who work there.

 

The plant employs generations of family members, including grandfathers, fathers and sons who work there, Hummel said.

 

Hummel said he has been laid off at other times during his years at MCI, but this time feels different and he's concerned that the company plans to discontinue the model of bus manufactured in Pembina.

In a to-scale size, Pembina just suffered a job loss I would think is akin to what the coal companies are working diligently to avoid in central North Dakota. Those pay-the-bills jobs are just hard to manufacture in mostly rural areas. From MCI's feasibility study-

The coach business has experienced a significant amount of change over the past two years, including the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing disruptions to manufacturing operations caused by supply chain shortages, heightened inflation, extreme fuel prices, and a tighter labor market.

Appropriately staffing MCI’s Pembina facility with the required number of people and skill sets has been especially challenging, even pre-dating the pandemic. Additionally...the NFI Group has excess manufacturing capacity in North America.

I'm not questioning rural initiative, it's awesome and I'll sure applaud all your successes. It's just unfortunate when a community has to rethink its identity after being funded for generations. Funded because of the hard work and success of the workers and the company as a whole.

New Flyer Industries (NFI) will offer transition and placement services and redeploy workers at the North Dakota facility within the NFI family where possible, including providing information on employment opportunities at the company’s Minnesota facility. NFI will also manage the workforce transition through retirements and normal job attrition.

 

It's just a shame that it's such a long drive from Pembina to Crookston.


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