PLATTSBURGH — With help from a recent major expansion, a rail manufacturer here has added 100-plus area jobs.
Global rail supplier Wabtec Corporation’s Vapor Stone Rail Systems announced completion of a new 60,000 square-foot facility on Arizona Avenue in the Town of Plattsburgh.
The new plant sits just down the street from the manufacturer’s pre-existing facility, which has operated in the town for 21 years.
At a Thursday morning grand opening and ribbon cutting, Vice President and Managing Director Carine Paumier-Hug said the announcement was an exciting one.
“When we started our activities here in 1998, we were only 64 employees,” she said. “Now, with this new extension — we are more than tripling our employees.”
And, she added, the new space has doubled production capacity.
Vapor Stone Rail Systems is a developer, manufacturer and distributor behind metro door systems and commuter/passenger train air conditioning system accessories.
The manufacturer’s more than 200,000 train and metro doors were designed at its head office in St. Laurent, Quebec.
Director of Operations Alain Aumais said there are about 200 employees between their two Plattsburgh sites.
During a tour of their new facility, employees showed off various product development stations and their safety and efficiency enhancements.
One example was a robot used to polish stainless steel doors — a task formerly done by hand.
On average, workers said the new facility averages about 12 doors a day.
It was a scary time when Vapor Stone Rail first started its Plattsburgh operations.
North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said it was just after Plattsburgh Airforce Base closed in October 1995.
The multi-thousand acres of land had been pegged for future manufacturing development and, Douglas said, Wabtec’s Vapor Stone Rail was one of the first to make that leap.
“It was like the Halloween of economic development,” Douglas said.
“It was a 3,000-acre city within a city and there was nobody out here. Everything was empty — who wanted to be first?
“Wabtec was the first, major industrial entity that said, ‘Yes.’”
Now, with a cluster of 54 manufacturing operations in the North Country, Douglas said another section of that former base land is hoped to continue that legacy.
And, that’s where Vapor Stone Rail’s located its latest addition.
“Twenty-one years ago, Wabtec helped to get the ball rolling for the development of the Air Force Base and, now, they’re doing it again.”
Aumais oversees production at both Plattsburgh plants and said the new facility has strategies to cut back on energy consumption.
As an example, the director pointed to two, in-house, water-testing systems.
At two points of door production, he said, the door’s window and the finished product are each tested for water leakage.
To do so, the products are clamped to a machine and doused in water for about 10 minutes.
“We use a tank to recycle the water,” Aumais said. “So less consumption.”
ROOM TO GROW
Transit President Lilian Leroux said Plattsburgh operations will only continue to expand.
And, Aumais added, there’s a chance for that.
“We have an operation one shift, but we could add a second shift, third shift — we could double what we have,” he said. “It depends on the contracts that we have, but we’re well positioned.
“We still have plenty of opportunity to grow.”
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