“What can we do to be part of the green economy and clean energy jobs?” This question has become routine when meeting with someone we haven’t met with before to discuss economic development in the North Country. And my answer is always the same.
We were 25 years ahead of the curve when we decided to make ourselves a hub for the production of transportation equipment, centered on rail and then buses. Mass transportation is inherently green and has become steadily “greener” in response to the evolving marketplace. While others are chasing various schemes and notions, we are already very much in the green business with Nova Bus, Alstom and a few dozen other companies on the cutting edge of electric transport with a major place in the market and real customers.
Especially exciting is the recent award by Milwaukee of the first U.S. order for electric buses from Nova Bus, a milestone which is about to shift the Plattsburgh plant and its suppliers from development and past prototyping to production. It is the culmination of years of R&D and investment by Volvo Group and its battery technology partners, BAE Systems of Endicott, New York, creating the LFSe+, a new long-range electric bus with dual charging options. It was actually the first electric bus in the industry to pass the full performance tests at the Altoona testing center in 2018, a step on the way to its official unveiling for the market in the fall of 2019.
Its first traction was in Canada, including Montreal, with buses produced in Quebec, helping to further prove its performance in real life conditions. And now in the U.S., positioning Plattsburgh and New York State at the heart of electric bus manufacturing at exactly the right moment in history — just ahead of major new funding and incentives for the nation’s transit operations to begin the replacement of their existing fleets with new electric buses.
Add the rail technologies of Alstom and its suppliers and we already find ourselves very much in the vaunted new economy in a serious and strategic way that most others can never hope to achieve. And our overall role becomes even greater when you add several other area manufacturers engaged in producing other forms of energy saving equipment and technology on the forefront of their own sectors, such as Smardt Chillers and APG Neuros among others.
It is all a story we are continually telling in Washington, Albany and elsewhere, spreading awareness and staking our claim to an economic trend that contrary to common opinion is about much more than solar panels and windmills. It is also about the business we are in — making the things that make people and things move and helping to do so in cleaner, more efficient ways than ever before.
ONWARD AND UPWARD!
Garry Douglas is president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce.