CONWAY, Ark. (AP) - The Navistar International Corp. bus assembly plant in Conway has told its workers that up to 500 of them could lose their jobs by August due to a decline in demand.
Spokesman Roy Wiley said Wednesday that more stringent emission standards caused a slowdown in orders. Before the new standards were put in place, school districts increased orders while they could still buy buses equipped with less costly diesel engines.
Wiley said it is not known how many of the plant's 1,240 workers will lose their jobs.
''You never know what's going to happen, because (order) volume could change,'' Wiley said. ''Realistically,'' he added, ''I would suspect there would be some layoffs.''
IC Corp., which is owned by Warrenville, Ill.-based Navistar, gave a federally-required 60-day notice on Monday that the layoffs were coming.
School buses have been manufactured in Conway since the 1930s. Companies that preceded IC Corp. included American Transportation and Ward Bu.
The bus plant is the largest manufacturer in Conway, said Brad Lacy, president and chief executive officer of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, who also heads the Conway Development Corp.
''To many people, the school bus industry is as synonymous to Conway as our universities and colleges are,'' Lacy said. ''The company definitely means a lot to us.''
Wiley said the plant had been turning out 38 buses per day a year ago but that number has dropped to 30 per day.
''We've had similar reductions in staff at some of the other plants,'' owned by Navistar, Wiley said. He said a truck plant in Chatham, Ontario, saw layoffs after production dropped from 200 trucks per day to 50 per day.
Wiley said that engines that meet the new emissions standards cost between $4,000 and $12,000 more, depending on the type of engine.
Lacy said he hopes that other area manufacturers will be able to hire any workers laid off from the bus plant. He said the natural gas business is adding workers because of the Fayetteville Shale play.