FreightCar America to close Roanoke plant this fall

Unclear how many will lose jobs

ROANOKE, Va. – FreightCar America will permanently close its doors in Roanoke in the fall. 

According to a Virginia WARN notice sent Monday by the company to Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea, layoffs will come in waves, starting around Sept. 20 and going until about Nov. 11.

"At this time, the plant closing should be considered permanent, and employees should not count on being recalled to employment with the Company," David Benson, the vice president of human resources for FreightCar America, said in the WARN notice.

The plant is at 830 Campbell Ave. in Roanoke. 

Employees with the company tell 10 News that the announcement was made in a company-wide meeting around 10 a.m. Monday morning.

Fred Owens, president of the union that represents the employees at the plant, said he and the union's legal advisor given the news by corporate representatives around 9 a.m.

"We knew they were doing something, we just didn't know what," Owens said. "We figured they were going to lay some people off, but we didn't expect them to close the plant completely." 

At this time, it is unclear how many people will lose their jobs as a result of the closure.

Owens estimated around 150 people work at the plant, many of whom, he said, are worried about their livelihood.

"With the way work has been, no overtime this year so to speak of, things have been a little bleak for us, but we've been getting by," Owens said.

Interim Roanoke economic development director Robe Ledger, says he notified the local workforce office as soon as he got the news of the closure Monday morning so the office could start working with FreightCar's HR department to help employees find jobs locally.

What will happen to the property once FreightCar America is gone, he said, will ultimately be up to Norfolk Southern.

Norfolk Southern owns the property.

Ledger said the city will work with the company to try to make the best use of the property.

The obvious choice for the next business would be something similar to FreightCar.

Ledger is hopeful such a company could be recruited if that's the route Norfolk Southern and the city decide to go.

"That's what we thought back in the early 2000s when FreightCar America came in 2006. They've been here ever since. So it was successful then," Ledger said. "We have over 3,000 companies here in Roanoke. There's not one of them that we're not concerned about constantly. We try to keep our environment, our business environment, here active enough that these companies can continue to work and grow."

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