Bobcat Suspending Work At North Dakota Plants

Construction equipment maker said manufacturing production in its Gwinner and Bismarck plants will be suspended from Dec. 15 until Feb. 2, 2009.

WEST FARGO, N.D. (AP) -- North Dakota-based Bobcat Co., announced Thursday that it is suspending work at its two North Dakota plants for six weeks starting in mid-December due to the crisis in financial markets. The plants together have about 2,000 workers, Bobcat said.

The construction equipment maker said in a statement that manufacturing production in its Gwinner and Bismarck plants will be suspended from Dec. 15 until Feb. 2, including a week of normal paid holidays.

"I've been with the company 17 years. This is largest suspended shutdown since I've been with company," said Dan Antrim, vice president of the company's North America operations.

"We're currently looking at how to size the business and fit to market as it is right now and still keep the doors open long term," he said.

Bobcat, known for its skid-steer loaders, employs about 4,000 people worldwide, with about 1,300 dealers in 90 countries. It was purchased by South Korea's Doosan Infracore Co. last year.

Bobcat Americas President Rich Goldsbury said the demand for construction equipment has dropped "substantially" in recent months.

"By temporarily suspending production, we will give our dealer network an opportunity to move their current inventory before more machines make their way into the market," Goldsbury said in the company's statement. "Despite the current economic conditions, Bobcat continues to invest significantly in research and development of new technologies and machines to be ready for future demand."

Antrim said the company has new and exciting products, "so when the market turns around, we want to be ready for that."

Bobcat said the Gwinner and Bismarck plants are the only Bobcat plants affected by the suspension. Their employees are expected to return to work when operations resume.

Gov. John Hoeven issued a statement saying he has asked the Job Service North Dakota staff to help workers file for unemployment benefits claims for the six-week layoff.

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