The news that Champion Bus will soon be closing its doors for good was very disappointing but certainly not surprising. Having been bought and sold numerous times in the last several years, usually as part of a divestiture move by a parent company, it became apparent that the brand would likely feel the impacts of consolidation and centralization within the shuttle bus industry in the not too distant future.
When supply or other issues arise, it’s common for companies to further consolidate operations. The Imlay City facility was Forest River’s only out state bus division. After the company closed a bus plant in Kansas this spring it felt inevitable that Imlay City would be the next target when an issue cropped up and it appears that issue was the nationwide chassis shortage.
A loss of jobs, especially 100 at a time, is always tough on the long-term health of a local economy. Although we are experiencing a very competitive job market currently, the closure will impact other businesses and potentially mean that residents will move out of the area. The closure also means the end of a era in local history. The Champion brand has a longtime connection to the Tri-City area.
The closure also severs more current ties between the company and community.
Employees and government officials rallied around the company when it experienced a devastating fire in 2010. Employees were particularly praised for going above and beyond to reorganize the plant and keep filling orders in the days and weeks following the blaze. It’s then owner reportedly considered moving production to Indiana following the fire but the herculean efforts by staff to rebound prevented that move.
Regionally, the closure also means there will be another empty large manufacturing space hoping for a new owner. Earlier this year Keihin Michigan Manufacturing in Capac shuttered its doors and its building and property is currently on the market. While some sectors are currently booming, having those kinds of large vacant structures can put a damper—even just visibly—on the economic progress being made locally.
We hope that the impact of the closure on employees and their families and local businesses will be minimal. Ideally, a new business will see potential in the Graham Road facility, bringing jobs and economic vitality to our area.