Arkansas' 'auto' plant still going strong after 75 years.
"WHAT MANY FORGET WHEN they consider offering economic incentives to lure an auto manufacturer to Arkansas is that the state already has an auto plant at Conway--and it has been there for years.
What is now IC Corp. has gone through several name changes, but it has survived to become one of the three remaining large bus makers in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. with nearly a 60 percent market share. It continues to be one of Faulkner County s largest manufacturers.
The largest maker of school buses in the United States began with $125 in 1933, when D.H. "Dave" Ward, who owned a blacksmith shop, was asked to "lower the roof of a wooden bus" for the Southside schools north of Conway.
Later in the 1930s, Ward began to make all-metal school bus bodies at his business, then known as Ward Body Works, gradually adding all the components and machinery to build complete buses from the ground up.
Ward Body Works evolved into Ward School Bus Manufacturing Inc. as the company grew to some 1,200 workers at one point.
It remained a Ward family business until 1980, when it filed for bankruptcy. On July 18, 1980, the 1,100 full-time and temporary workers were laid off and the plant was shut down. A week later, on July 25, the Wards declared bankruptcy.
According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. an article in the Arkansas Gazette The Arkansas Gazette, known as the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi River, was for many years the newspaper of record for Little Rock and the State of Arkansas. , the company had $21.5 million in debt.
To save the business, then-Gov. Bill Clinton helped put together a group of investors that bought the assets of Ward Industries Inc.
Those investors were Thomas E "Mack" McLarty, J.W. "Buddy" Benafield and two Kansas City Kansas City, two adjacent cities of the same name, one (1990 pop. 149,767), seat of Wyandotte co., NE Kansas (inc. 1859), the other (1990 pop. 435,146), Clay, Jackson, and Platte counties, NW Mo. (inc. 1850). brothers, R.L. "Dick" Harmon and Robert Harmon. McLarty and Benafield each owned a third and the Harmon brothers owned a third. They formed MBH MBH Mann Bradley Hughes (authors of paper on climate change)
MBH Microscopic Black Hole
MBH My Brain Hurts
MBH Message Board Help
MBH Mr. Inc. and reopened the plant on Aug. 21, 1980.
Although the Wards no longer had any interest in the manufacturing of the buses, Dave Ward's sons, Charles and Steve, operated dealerships selling the buses up until a couple of years ago. Efforts to contact Steve Ward Steve Ward previously served as the Chief Executive Officer of Lenovo. For 26 years Ward managed a number of key products and divisions before being appointed Chief Information Officer of IBM's Personal Computer Division. , the sole survivor of the family business, failed.
MBH told the Arkansas Democrat in 1980 that it would have "$16 million invested in the plant by the time it is ready for full production."
That included the assumption of $11 million to $12 million for "all or part of the various debts of both secured and unsecured creditors of Ward Industries Inc.," the Democrat article said, and the pumping of an additional $4 million to $5 million into the facility.
Why did it go bankrupt? According to an article in the Gazette, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Charles Baker Charles Baker may refer to:
Later that year, the investment group formed American Transportation Corp., and in 1981, American Transportation began doing business as AmTran Corp., though it continued to market the buses under the Ward name for several years.
Two years later, in 1983, the Harmon brothers bought controlling interest controlling interest
The ownership of a quantity of outstanding corporate stock sufficient to control the actions of the firm. Controlling interest often involves ownership of significantly less than 51% of a firm's outstanding stock because many owners fail of AmTran.
In 1991 Navistar International Navistar International Corporation (Pink Sheets: NAVZ) (formerly International Harvester Company) is a manufacturer of International brand commercial trucks, MaxxForce brand diesel engines, IC Corporation brand school buses, Workhorse brand chassis for motor homes and step vans, Corp. of Warrenville, Ill., bought a third interest in American Transportation Corp. and also got an option that would allow it to buy the remaining two-thirds by April 1995. That option was carried out and Navistar became the sole owner of the bus operation.
In 2000, Navistar began using the "International" trade name for the company's products. In 2002, the company changed its product-marketing name to IC Corp.
Slowdown and Tulsa
Today there are about 800 workers at the plant, which turns out some 20 buses a day, about half of what could be built at full production capacity, said John Thompson John Thompson is the name of:
The current economic slowdown and resulting decline in orders for new buses forced the company to lay off about 300 workers in January.
When IC boosted production at its much newer bus assembly plant at Tulsa, which employs about 1,000 workers, many were afraid it might be the end of the Conway plant, but that's not so, said Ed Hartung, plant manager.
The Tulsa plant is strictly an assembly-line operation, while the Conway facility not only produces finished buses, but also does a lot of the metal fabrication fabrication (fab´rikā´shn),
n the construction or making of a restoration. that goes meeting all the variations in demand by local school districts and state regulations.
Driving along Dave Ward The name Dave Ward may refer to:
It would be easy to think that is a huge number of buses filling up the lot, Thompson said, but every bus on the lot has been made to fill orders from its network of 50 dealers in the U.S. and Canada, and the company maintains no inventory at all.
IC makes conventional school bus models, small buses, rear-engine buses and front-engine buses.
School buses make up 95 percent of the plant's production, but the plant also turns out commercial buses for various school activities, use on military bases, transporting prisoners, catastrophic needs--even a poultry bus that can drop chicks off at a grower.
International engines--the MaxxForce DT, an inline six, or the MaxxForce 7, a new V-8 engine--power all the buses. Each meets all the latest regulations for diesel emissions.
The numbers in the industry haven't grown that much, so "we can't afford to be sloppy," Hartung said.
The cost of fuel has doubled and that comes out of school districts' operating budget Noun 1. operating budget - a budget for current expenses as distinct from financial transactions or permanent improvements
budget items, operating cost, operating expense, overhead - the expense of maintaining property (e.g. , he said. That makes it an easy decision to defer buying new buses.
More stringent diesel emission regulations that took effect in 2007 are another reason for the slowdown in bus sales and a prime reason for the cutback cut·back
1. A decrease; a curtailment: "The political effects of food cutbacks could be devastating" New York Times.
2. in employees.
Those regulations added $5,000 to the cost of each diesel engine, and because buyers were aware of the impending im·pend
intr.v. im·pend·ed, im·pend·ing, im·pends
1. To be about to occur: Her retirement is impending.
2. change, they stocked up on the cheaper buses with less eco-friendly engines.
"Innovation is the key to staying ahead of the competition," Hartung said --competition that is much tougher than in the past despite the few players left in the industry.
Thompson said that a century ago, about 200 companies were making bus bodies. Now that number is down to three large companies and just a handful of much smaller ones.
IC currently is the biggest, but it faces stiff competition from Thomas Built Buses Thomas Built Buses, Inc. is a U.S. bus manufacturer based in High Point, North Carolina, United States and subsidary of Daimler AG. Perley A. Thomas: streetcar and bus pioneer
Perley A. Inc., a division of Daimler Trucks North America North America, third largest continent (1990 est. pop. 365,000,000), c.9,400,000 sq mi (24,346,000 sq km), the northern of the two continents of the Western Hemisphere. LLC (Logical Link Control) See "LANs" under data link protocol.
LLC - Logical Link Control , which also owns Freightliner LLC, and from Blue Bird Corp., owned by Cerberus Capital Management LP, the hedge fund hedge fund, in finance, a highly speculative, largely unregulated investment device. Originating in the 1950s, the funds "hedge" by offsetting "short" positions (borrowing a security and then selling it at a higher price before repaying the lender) against "long" that also owns Chrysler LLC.
Hartung said that in addition to being more innovative, the company must focus on the quality of its buses to stay ahead. Pricing also enters the picture. In addition, IC's competitors have newer facilities that make them more efficient.
Hartung said his biggest challenge is overcoming the dated facilities at Conway so it can remain cost competitive. He said he needs financial help to make it as efficient as it should be and laments that state and local government incentives aren't as readily available to existing businesses as they are to new businesses coming into the state.
Parent company Navistar may not be able to help much after last year's loss of $120 million on revenue of $12.3 billion.
The Conway plant has been at the forefront of bus safety and security, Hartung said.
The company is meeting new requirements from some states that call for three-point safety restraints.
And Hartung foresees technological advances that will allow school districts to monitor their buses, know where they are and how the drivers are doing, as well as student passes that will let parents see if their child got on a bus, which bus and the time at which the bus should drop the child off.
By John Henry