Worldwide Credibility Assembled in Plattsburgh
Since 1914, Vapor Stone Rail Systems, which is now a division of the Wabtec Corporation, has manufactured valuable products to fit the demands of the public transit industry. Originally, the company manufactured boilers for marine and rail vehicles. As time progressed, the company adapted to the ever-evolving transportation needs of a global economy and found its niche in intercity transportation.
Today, Vapor Stone Rail Systems operates on a global stage, designing, modeling, manufacturing, and distributing metro door systems. In addition, the company manufactures HVAC accessories for the systems on both commuter and passenger trains.
Today there are over 200,000 train and metro doors manufactured by Vapor Stone in use. The company’s design and engineering, as well as its finance and purchasing operations are done at its headquarters in St-Laurent, Quebec. The assembly of its door systems takes place right here in Plattsburgh, New York.
A Strategic Investment 20 Years Ago
The main assembly facility for Vapor Stone Rail Systems, located on the old Plattsburgh Air Force Base in 1998, officially opening the following year. According to Cindy Green, the company’s Human Resource/Administrative Manager in Plattsburgh, Wabtec saw an opportunity in the area at that time and invested in it. “There is a strategic advantage for manufacturers in the transportation industry to establish operations in Plattsburgh,” Green explained. “The region’s proximity to New York City and other important hubs is of great value.” She continued, “We deal with a wide variety of customers throughout the world now since we combined with Faiveley Transport about a year and a half ago.”
Garry Douglas, president and CEO of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, fondly remembers the local commitment made by Vapor Stone to Plattsburgh in the late 1990’s.”Wabtec and its Vapor Stone division were one of the first transportation equipment companies we attracted to Plattsburgh 20 years ago and the first major industry to locate at the former Air Force Base. Along with Bombardier, they helped us form the basis of what is now a 52-company cluster of transportation equipment and aerospace manufacturers in the North Country, many in growth mode and with new ones in the pipeline.”
Expanding Operations in Plattsburgh
Vapor Stone Rail Systems recently announced a significant operational expansion in Plattsburgh. The decision by Wabtec to invest further in its North Country operation was influenced by the company’s strong performance over time. “We’ve been very successful here,” said Green, referencing how operations have approximately doubled during her 15 years with the company.
In addition to maintaining its current workforce of just under 100 employees, the expansion will result in the creation of 52 new jobs in the North Country. Several new hires have already been made. “We’ve brought on both office and skilled labor such as electrical assemblers, electrical technicians, and HVAC technicians.
Vapor Stone will also be making significant investments in new machinery and employee training programs for the new equipment, an estimated overall investment of $2.5 million in the region.
Clinton Community College (CCC) is playing a role, according to Green. “We’re working with the IAM at the college. We’ve developed new training programs to assist with our new people who may not have the experience required,” said Green. “Safety is a big part of that program.” In addition to its partnership with CCC, Green emphasized other partnerships that have been important contributors to the company’s success, including sup – port from The Development Corporation, Empire State Development, and the North Country Chamber of Commerce.
An Anchor Tenant
In early 2019 Vapor Stone will lease 60,000 square-feet of additional space, currently under construction, through a partnership with The Development Corporation.
This investment is occurring just in time to supplement other economic developments in the region, such as the expansion project underway at the Plattsburgh International Airport campus. The project began as a result of the Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization Competition, which was featured in Strictly Business magazine earlier this year.
As part of round two of the initiative, $38.1 million was awarded to the Plattsburgh International Airport to modernize the facility and leverage additional growth within the emerging transportation and aerospace manufacturing cluster of companies in the region. The new/ upgraded building that Vapor Stone Rail Systems is expected to occupy is a facility The Development Corporation has invested in as a result of the developments occurring at the airport campus.
Paul Grasso, President and CEO of The Development Corporation in Plattsburgh, sees the investment by Vapor Stone Rail Systems as an “anchor” for future development in the region.
“The Development Corporation is proud to be part of this defining moment for Plattsburgh International Airport, and to have Vapor Stone Rail as part of TDC’s family of tenants. Well-planned industrial parks at airports can be a magnet for economic development and having them as an anchor tenant will be a catalyst for future development,” said Grasso. “This project represents how public-private partnerships can improve a region’s quality of life by helping to create good paying manufacturing jobs and by helping to grow our industrial tax base.”
Plattsburgh on the World Stage
While the investment by Vapor Stone Rail is a catalyst for additional growth in the region, it represents just one piece of the larger economic engine revving up in the North Country. The greater Plattsburgh region continues to grow its transportation and aerospace manufacturing cluster, which has brought worldwide attention to the area.
“The North Country started down the road to make itself a global hub for transportation equipment production more than 20 years ago and at the Farnborough Air Show recently we saw global recognition of Plattsburgh’s emergence on the world stage,” said Douglas. “Vapor Stone’s expansion here is strategically significant for them and for us, and we thank them for their commitment and confidence.
The leadership of Wabtec Corporation issued an official statement for Strictly Business magazine for the purpose of this article: “The planned expansion of our operations in Plattsburgh will provide even more opportunities for Vapor Stone Rail Systems and its dedicated employees to play an integral role in improving the safety, efficiency and productivity of the global transit market.”