ALF SHIPS FIRST APPARATUS SINCE COST-CUTTING S.C. CONSOLIDATION

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EDISON’S AMERICAN LAFRANCE EAGLE PUMPER IS PUMP
 TESTED AT THE COMPANY’S SUMMERVILLE, 
S.C., HEADQUARTERS FACILITY.                  
(AMERICAN LAFRANCE PHOTO)

American LaFrance marked a milestone in August, delivering the first fire apparatus from its Summerville, S.C. headquarters facility since announcing a cost-cutting consolidation move last spring.

An ALF Eagle pumper built in Summerville was delivered to the Edison Fire Department in Edison, N.J. “Everything looks great,” said Edison Deputy Chief Joseph Szebenyi. “The truck met all of our expectations. We can’t wait to get it in service.”

American LaFrance’s fire apparatus manufacturing operations have been in turmoil since the company sought Chapter 11 protection from its creditors in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in January 2008. A reorganization plan was approved in April 2008 that paid 22.5 cents on the dollar to the company’s unsecured creditors, most of whom were suppliers. Some of the unsecured creditors were fire departments that held unfilled contracts for new apparatus.

Edison was one of the departments that ordered its truck before the bankruptcy filing, according to Richard Ball, ALF’s marketing director. He said the company is still working to complete other apparatus ordered before financial distress and layoffs in late 2007 led to the bankruptcy.

The episode damaged relations between the company and its suppliers, as well as its customers and its network of dealers, many of whom have defected to other manufacturers.

While in bankruptcy, ALF executives said they closed or vacated six of their 10 facilities. In July 2008, after emerging from bankruptcy, the company announced it was consolidating all fire truck production at its plants in Ephrata, Pa., and Hamburg, N.Y., because it intended to launch other types of new ventures at its 435,000-square-foot Summerville headquarters and manufacturing facility, which opened in July 2007.

But that consolidation plan was short-lived. It was scrapped five months ago, when company officials announced a new plan to cut costs and consolidate all fire apparatus operations in Summerville. They said they would shut down the Ephrata and Hamburg plants, eliminating some 300 jobs.

Since then, according to Ball, operations from company’s chassis plant in Jedburg, S.C., and from the Hamburg, N.Y., plant have been transferred to Summerville.

The Ephrata, Pa., facility, where aerials were manufactured, has yet to be consolidated in South Carolina. “We have lead engineers and production workers in Ephrata going through various cross training to make sure when we move the product to South Carolina we are prepared,” ALF President Bill Hinz said in a prepared statement announcing the delivery of the Eagle pumper to Edison, N.J.

Hinz said the company plans to operate a branch in the Northeast to handle sales, service and support, “which will also allow us to retain key personnel related to our aerial product line.”
He agrees with most industry experts that the rest of this year and 2010 will be rough for the fire industry, but said that the economic slowdown has given ALF an opportunity to regroup.

“Moving forward, you will see a strong emphasis from American LaFrance on servicing the customer,” Hinz said. “We are blessed to have a loyal customer base that has stuck with us, and we will not let them down. Over the next twelve months, we will focus on providing our customers with quality trucks that meet their budget requirements, providing a one-stop service inquiry 
network, and branching out our parts and service capabilities.”

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