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Published August 09 2009

Forum editorial: The signs at Bobcat worrisome

The Bobcat job cuts announced last week were the latest in a series of job loss announcements from local manufacturers that depend on international markets for sales growth. Bobcat Americas is a unit of Doosan Infracore of South Korea, one of the world’s largest makers of construction equipment, with plants in several nations. The job losses in West Fargo, Bismarck and Gwinner, N.D., are in part fallout from the worldwide recession and in part a reflection of the parent company’s priorities.

A similar scenario played out a couple of months ago when the Case IH farm and industrial tractor plant in Fargo announced a summer shutdown and layoffs. Case IH relies on the strength of international markets. The Italian-owned company is feeling the effects of recession.

Nonetheless, the impact of the layoffs is devastating for individual workers and their families. In Gwinner, which has been identified with the big Bobcat plant for decades, the new layoff combined with previous cuts is a major blow to the community.

If there is good news in the Bobcat story, it’s that the Gwinner operation is not shut down. Bobcats are still being manufactured by a work force of more than 800. The concern, however, is that the Korean parent company will consolidate manufacturing operations closer to markets, as the editor of a trade publication suggested last week. Rich Goldsbury, president of Bobcat Americas, said the company is committed to North Dakota, but added the caveat that the company can’t make promises about its future staffing in the state. In other words, loyalty to North Dakota and respect for the company’s roots are not Doosan Infracore’s priorities.

Bobcat cut 250 jobs earlier this year. Last week’s cut of nearly 200 jobs seems to confirm a trend that started about two years ago, when the company employed 2,600 in the state. Today Bobcat employs about 1,000 fewer workers. Given Doosan’s manufacturing capacity in other parts of the world, including a new $32 million Bobcat plant and training center in the Czech Republic, the company’s future in North Dakota looks anything but secure.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.