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Leading the Way

Alstom Transit

By Mary Carpenter • Photos Supplied

When Bombardier Transit (now Alstom Transit) opened its rail car manufacturing plant in Plattsburgh in 1995, it was a time of celebration for the community and it marked the beginning of the region’s love affair with the transportation industry. The original facility was an impressive 62,000 square feet and provided challenging, well-paid jobs. The plant’s mission was to provide the final assembly for rail cars destined for the U.S. market. The shells and bodies were produced in La Pocatiere, Quebec and then shipped across the border to the company’s New York plant. That business model remained in place until 2006 when full manufacturing of the cars was handed off to Plattsburgh.

The ensuing years have seen both growth and change for the local plant, including two physical expansions, increased employment opportunities and, in 2021, a buyout by Alstom Transit, a global leader in the transportation industry that is best known for designing and producing the train that crosses the English Channel between France and the UK.

From high-speed trains, metros, monorails, and trams, to turnkey systems, services, infrastructure, signaling and digital mobility, Alstom offers the broadest portfolio in the industry. The company currently produces a broad range of rolling stock at facilities in Plattsburgh and Hornell, New York, as well as plants in Pennsylvania and California.

Changing Times

To learn about what takes place in the Plattsburgh plant and the changes it has undergone since Alstom’s acquisition, I met recently with Jeff Lambert. A SUNY Plattsburgh graduate with a degree in Business Management, Lambert began his career with Bombardier in 2003. Over the years he has been a Buyer, Project Administrator, Procurement Manager, Director of Supply Chain Management, and now Site Management Director. Who better to tell Bombardier/Alstom’s Plattsburgh story?

Lambert began, “For the first year after the sale was finalized, we focused on integrating our procedures with those of our new owner. Continuity was important. We knew we needed to take care of our customers while we made changes. We looked to combine a delivery-based system with an efficiency-based system. We brought on more people and that allowed us to increase both.”

Describing the plant’s impressive flexibility, Lambert offered, “Relying on our ability to modify our standard platforms, we are able to produce a variety of vehicles. Each project is unique, made to specific requirements. Over the years we have turned out passenger cars, locomotives, hybrids, light rail cars, high-speed rail, commuter, and subway cars. The many steps that go into the production of our cars include the welding of sheet steel, installation of undercarriages, floors, interior linings, walls and ceilings, electrical systems, windows and doors.”

Currently under construction at Plattsburgh/Alstom are projects for both New Jersey Transit and San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). “We always like to have two contracts going at a time,” Lambert observed.

New double decker cars for New Jersey will offer increased seating capacity, more on-board amenities and they are designed to travel up to 110 miles an hour. The project for BART is a continuation of a long-standing working relationship to produce rail transportation that connects the San Francisco peninsula bay area with outlying communities. Based on their quality and dependability, the cars produced in Plattsburgh — dubbed the “Fleet of the Future” — have been designated as Best in Class by the BART Authority.

Critically important to the success of the Plattsburgh production facility is its workforce experience and stability. “Our average worker has 18 years’ experience,” Lambert reported proudly. “We currently have a staff of 250 and as our work for the New Jersey Transit project ramps up, our plan is to add 90 new employees in 2024. The skill set of our workers is essential. It can be a challenge to find the right people with the skills we require. Fifteen percent of our current workforce has welding skills. Within the next year we anticipate our demand for that specialty will grow to 18 percent.” To address our needs and those of other businesses in the area we are taking a pro-active approach. We are working with Clinton Community College and the North Country Chamber of Commerce to offer a free, three-week, 120-hour welding program. Classes will be taught by a welding specialist to cohorts of 12 using Alstom’s equipment. Enrollment is now open and I urge interested people to take advantage of this opportunity.

Industry and Community Partners

While Alstom’s impact on the economy of the North Country cannot be overstated, we must also recognize the many suppliers and vendors who furnish parts and assemblies essential to its operation. There are more than 50 such businesses currently operating in the area, employing some 9,000 people.

As our conversation wound down, we were joined by Cliff Cole, spokesperson for Alstom, who observed, “The work of Jeff’s team is critical to our Plattsburgh operation. We are very proud of the workforce there and see a bright future for our newest facility.”

Lambert and Cole both extolled the importance of the North Country Chamber of Commerce’s support. “They are a strong voice for the area and are always there to help out when we need something.”

Train Systems Produce Vitality

As cities grow, it is critical to move people effectively and that is driving the growth in commuter rail, regional and light rail. Passenger rail travel links urban areas together faster than a car, bus or plane. Loading times are faster than other modes of transportation Train stations are typically centrally located within towns and cities and are increasingly becoming part of larger transit systems. All good news for companies like Alstom.

Alstom Transport

71 Wall Street

Plattsburgh, NY 12901

518 566-0150

Since Bombardier began rail car production in Plattsburgh in 1995, it has produced more than 4,000 vehicles for:

• Long Island Railroad

• Metro North

• New York City Subway System

• Chicago and Seattle

• Maryland, Florida, Texas and Utah

• Vancouver, Canada

• Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) phases in an increased domestic content percentage requirement for rolling stock, as follows:

FY16 & FY17: More than 60% domestic content

FY18 & FY19: More than 65% domestic content

FY20 & beyond: More than 70% domestic content

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