SPRINGFIELD — Navistar announced Thursday it will add 40 new jobs to its manufacturing facility in Springfield, the first time it has added new, full-time union jobs at the facility since 1999.
The new jobs are the result of a pent-up demand for Navistar’s trucks, said Steve Schrier, manager of corporate communications for Navistar.
About 25 of the new jobs will be full-time hourly and salaried employees, while the rest will be temporary employees.
In recent years, Navistar simply recalled workers who had been laid off when demand for the facility’s trucks spiked, Schrier said. Now, those workers are already back on the job, meaning new workers were needed, he said.
In addition, the company touted a recently negotiated contract between the company and the union that allows more flexibility to produce vehicles at any of its production facilities.
Manufacturing in general has seen its best growth in years since the recession ended 2½ years ago, and about one-fifth of the net jobs the economy created in January were in manufacturing, according to information from the Associated Press.
Schrier said many trucking companies held off on adding newer vehicles to their fleet due to the recession. But the growing need to replace older trucks has led to a spike in business.
“As they’re adding new trucks, we need to build new trucks,” Schrier said.
Jim Rumpf, Springfield plant manager, said the new jobs are a positive development for the city.
“These new jobs help reinforce for our employees how building high-quality trucks, efficiently and cost-effectively, provides us with the opportunity to earn new business,” Rumpf said.
Schrier declined to discuss the pay range for the new employees, but said they likely will be on the job as early as next month. The majority of the new employees will work on the production lines, but there will be a handful of clerical and administrative jobs as well.
Jason Barlow, president of United Auto Workers local 402, said the facility now produces five models of trucks and will add a sixth. He said the facility has a good reputation in the industry because of its workforce, and said he hopes the increased demand continues.
“We’re hopeful and trying to be optimistic for the future,” Barlow said.
Mike McDorman, president and CEO of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, pointed to a contract that was signed a couple years ago between the union and Navistar that allowed more flexibility to build a variety of vehicles and made the local facility more competitive.
Although there are only 40 jobs being added overall, McDorman said it’s a good sign for the region in general.
“We’re very optimistic for 2012,” McDorman said. “We’re seeing great signs in the manufacturing and distribution sectors, and hopefully that will continue.”
Bob Costello, an economist for the American Trucking Association, said many trucking companies cut back on purchasing new vehicles during the recession.
However, older vehicles cost more to maintain and Costello said as the economy picks up, more companies are instead choosing to buy newer vehicles. If the economy continues to improve, the next step will be for trucking companies to increase the size of their fleets.
“I think we’ll be in a strong replacement cycle this year, if not beyond,” Costello said.
Rep. Steve Austria, R-Beavercreek, said Navistar plays a significant role in the local economy and said he is hopeful for more in the future.
“Navistar has always been an anchor to manufacturing jobs in Springfield and is critical for future economic growth,” Austria said.
Contact this reporter at (937) 328-0355.
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