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Jamestown welcomes new manufacturing center

New Flyer

Jamestown is celebrating the grand opening of a new production facility in what used to be a Quality supermarket. The property on Fluvanna Avenue has been vacant for about a decade, but Thursday officially became the new manufacturing site for one of our neighbors to the north.

New Flyer is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and hails itself as the largest transit bus and motor coach manufacturer and parts distributor in North America.

Rhys Preston is a start-up specialist from Lancaster who has been commuting to Jamestown since being hired in October as the plant's General Manager. He says New Flyer took over about half - or 40,000 square feet - of the former Quality market.

"It doesn't look like a supermarket at all," said Preston. "I think the only thing left over from the supermarket is the floor and we're actually having that completely replaced. We have four loading docks, you know, shipping and receiving docks in the back of our facility and the facility is basically divided into four segments: one for TCB, one for bench mechanical, one for powertrain and bench electric."

Locally, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has purchased Metro buses from New Flyer, but Preston says the new facility came about because of a new bus contract with New York City.

"The United States government requires that if a city, a town, or a village or anybody wants a government subsidy for their metro transit system, 60 percent of the bus has to be built in America," Preston said. "Along with that, New York State jumped onto the bandwagon and New York State basically says, if you want New York State money for your transit system, then you have the have the ability to have somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of the bus be manufactured or assembled in New York State."

Preston says about 27 percent of the New Flyer buses bound for New York City will be made in Jamestown, then sent to St. Cloud, MN for assembly, before arriving at their final destination.

The plant is New Flyer's first in New York State and currently employs 42 people at wages Preston are in the top 10-percent for the area.

Credit New Flyer
Parts for a version of this New York City bus will be manufactured at the new Jamestown facility.

"We are not at our max," Preston said. "We are at our initial budgeted employment, but with that being said, I'm probably going to be requesting additional employees. I can't tell you how many. We haven't quite gotten that far yet. We're still in our ramp-up phase. Essentially, when we get all up to speed and running, we'll be manufacturing approximately 10 bus sets a week."

The New York City contract and Jamestown facility already has helped garner another contract with Suffolk County for buses on Long Island.

The overall Jamestown project is said to have cost more than $2 million, with a half-million kicked in from the city through the Start-Up New York program.

"The positive thing about New Flyer is that we are an exceptionally growing company," Preston said. "We just finalized a buyout of another company, MCI, which builds what I call motor coaches, you know, the big tour bus-type things. We have lots of facilities throughout the country as service centers. Yes, we are growing. Our assembly line for 2017 is completely booked."