NESQUEHONING, Pa. — A plant in Carbon County that makes custom firefighting vehicles is closing.
Kovatch Mobile Equipment is a landmark in the town of Nesquehoning, producing top-of-the-line custom fire apparatus for more than 50 years. KME's parent company REV Group has decided to move production elsewhere.
Some KME employees who wished to remain anonymous told Newswatch 16 they were called into a meeting Friday morning and were blindsided when they were told that the plants in Nesquehoning would be closing. Their last day of work will be March 31, 2022.
In a statement, REV Group said the plants will complete orders already in production, but new orders will be sent to other facilities in the company.
Doug Budziak left KME in May. He wasn't surprised by the news.
"I knew it was coming. I'm not going to lie. I told a lot of people when I left there, I was like. 'Listen, this place is going to go down, and it's going to go down fast.' Look at the stock markets, and you see their production levels; it's just going down. With labor costs going up, it's just more sensible to go overseas and make more money that way."
Residents say the plant's closure will be a big blow to the small town.
"I'm not from here, but I know it matters to these people," Budziak said. "I know one guy, he works there, his name is Dave. He's worked there his entire life. He's going to lose it all."
Despite massive layoffs in recent years, current and former employees estimate 300 to 400 people still work at the plant. Budziak says many of them can find new jobs fast, as he did, but they might have to relocate.
"Some other company is going to come in and maybe do something with it, by all means. But by that time, it's going to be two or three years deep. The next generation's going to be good, but you're screwing these 300 people out of a life for the next two or three years, if not more. You don't know what that is going to do to this kind of community."
REV Group says it will meet with employees to discuss possible reassignments within the company. If they're let go, employees tell Newswatch 16 the company will pay a week of severance for every year they worked at the plant.