Blue Bird President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Maddox would not provide any specifics about the future of the LaFayette plant or its effects on the environment although the state Environmental Protection Division, or EPD, reported the company’s request for “higher air pollutant emission limits to allow increases in school bus production.”
“The mix of production disbursement has yet to be determined and all production levels are proprietary,” Maddox said. “The company will consider an increase in manpower, equipment and an expansion of the existing space based on production needs. Blue Bird Corp. has and will continue to meet all applicable air quality standards and regulations.”
The decision to apply to EPD came after the Fort Valley-based bus company closed its Mount Pleasant, Iowa, plant, laying off about 350 employees.
“The decision to close Blue Bird Midwest was based on efforts to consolidate manufacturing facilities to seize the economies of scale that result in operating fewer manufacturing sites,” Maddox said. “The closure was effective on Sept. 26.”
“As a result of this closure, school bus bodies will now be built in our existing facilities in north Georgia and Canada,” he said.
The company also announced it is releasing a new line of buses dubbed the Vision.
“The Vision sets a new standard for safety and innovation in the school bus industry,” Blue Bird sales manager Tim Kiefer said.
Improvements in the Vision include better line of sight for the driver and a front suspension for a smoother ride — a first in the industry, according to a prepared statement from the company.
Blue Bird operates plants in LaFayette, Fort Valley and Brantford, Ontario, Canada.
Blue Bird laid off temporary and student workers at the LaFayette plant in June 2001, with officials attributing the cutbacks to a “lull in the economy.