The Skyland Volvo plant will shut down on March 31, 2010, according to a press release from the Stockholm-based company. An estimated 228 employees will lose their jobs in a facility that Buncombe County and the city of Asheville were considering for millions in grants just a few years ago.
“In a move to improve the competitiveness and overall industrial efficiency of Volvo Construction Equipment, the company has decided to consolidate its North American industrial operations by removing excess industrial capacity in the Americas,” the release reads. “As a result, the company’s Asheville, NC, USA manufacturing facility will stop its activities by 31st March 2010. The closing will affect 228 employees.”
The plant built excavators, and demand has declined drastically for the heavy equipment as the construction market has tanked, and the company’s industrial consolidation means that over 200 manufacturing workers are facing tough times. Production previously handled at the Asheville plant will shift to plants Sweden, South Korea and Pennsylvania. Volvo’s Biltmore Park corporate offices and Volvo Rents are unaffected by the closure.
Back in 2006 and 2007, however, local governments were ready to give Volvo a combined millions in development grants. The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners voted to give the company $4 million over 10 years, and Asheville City Council voted to chip in $599,200.
In 2006, then-Chair Nathan Ramsey and Commissioner Carole Peterson posed beside freshly built excavators, while the city’s then-Economic Development Director, Sam Powers, said the incentive package “also ensures that the Volvo project will not leave the area.”
However, according to an announcement from the local Economic Development Coalition of Asheville-Buncombe, the money was never spent, as Volvo didn’t meet the necessary requirements.
“They [Volvo] didn’t ever meet our criteria, and we don’t give out a dime until a company does,” Clerk to the Board Kathy Hughes tells Xpress.
Today, the EDC’s announcement focused on its efforts to ensure Volvo’s workforce a soft landing, and get another company in the plant as soon as possible.
“What is important now is how our community can pull together to support these families and help them find new jobs here in Buncombe County,” board Chair David Gantt says in the announcement.
According to the EDC, they’ll now help Volvo’s laid-off workers to find employment opportunities with other manufacturers or additional training as needed. EDC Executive Director Ben Teague notes that while Volvo may be gone, maybe there’s opportunity for another company to take over the plant.
“A facility of this size, with these amenities, is an extremely attractive piece of property to manufacturers. A well cared for facility, the possibility of rail service, ease of access from major highways, and the designation as a foreign trade zone are all assets that manufacturers look for and are available in this space,” Teague declares in the announcement.
— David Forbes, staff writer