FORT VALLEY, Ga. — Blue Bird Corp. will centralize all large bus assembly operations into its Fort Valley location, company officials said on Thursday.
As a result, the company will cease operations at the Blue Bird North Georgia facility in LaFayette, effective Aug. 30.
"This was a difficult decision, and one not arrived at without significant deliberation," President and CEO Greg Bennett said. "However, in the face of the challenging U.S. economic climate, the school bus industry has declined in recent years, and we recognize that we must adjust our production capacity to meet demand in order to remain competitive. Moving North Georgia's Type C body assembly operations to Fort Valley centralizes all production operations, technical staff and services into a single facility which includes its corporate headquarters. This centralization will facilitate significant efficiencies."
Over the past three years, Blue Bird has taken steps to increase capacity at its Fort Valley location. In 2007, the company divested non-school bus related product offerings, and in 2008, it purchased a dedicated facility in Fort Valley to relocate its fabrication operation. In 2009, Blue Bird announced its Micro Bird joint venture and moved Type A production to Micro Bird by Girardin's Canadian facility.
Company officials said that Blue Bird's Fort Valley facility is now positioned with the capacity needed to absorb all Type C production as well as future market growth.
Blue Bird's North Georgia facility has been in operation since 1988 and currently has approximately 350 employees.
"Our decision to centralize assembly operations was in no way a negative reflection on the North Georgia facility or its capable workforce," company spokesman Michael McCurdy said. "The employees and management at Blue Bird North Georgia have been recognized for producing a high quality school bus, and we thank them for their years of dedication."
In a statement, Blue Bird said that it is "committed to working cooperatively and compassionately with its employees at the North Georgia facility through the transition."
The company said that it will provide severance, continued benefits and assistance with unemployment benefits. Blue Bird will also work with the Georgia Department of Labor and be in contact with other area employers to assist with employment opportunities.