A Note from Our Director:
It’s hard to believe that 2022 has already come and gone, and that this will now be the third edition of our annual “NAmTrans: Year in Review”.
I first joined the Chamber and started my role as Director of NAmTrans in July 2019. A mere 7 months after starting the job, much of the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly three years later, I am pleased to say that for the most part things have finally, largely returned to normal.
While some of the effects of the pandemic such as the global workforce shortage and supply chain disruptions linger and continue to pose challenges, I strongly believe that we have much to celebrate in terms of accomplishments and achievements from 2022 and that we, as a region and manufacturing cluster, have continued to demonstrate our resilience and ability to overcome these and other challenges that come our way.
Of the biggest items to celebrate from 2022 was the Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act. This $1 trillion, five-year infrastructure bill included more than $5.3 billion in funding for hybrid/electric buses and $1.5 billion for new rail vehicles. It was the largest in modern history and would provide the funding necessary for transit agencies across the country to begin placing new orders for buses and railcars. While the bill was technically passed in 2021, it was not until this year that the funding began to roll out from the FTA and, subsequently, the transit agencies – who are now issuing orders for new buses and railcars. We have already seen some of these orders secured by North Country manufacturers and we anticipate even more on the horizon.
Our cluster is comprised of three unique sectors – rail, road, and aerospace so, as we have done in the past, let’s take a look at how each has fared and recap some of the biggest happenings this year.
As New York State and other states across the nation continue to move toward electrifying their transit fleets and employing new green technologies, Plattsburgh has quickly established itself as a hub for hybrid and fully-electric transit bus manufacturing thanks to the commitment and investment of Nova Bus and their power propulsion partners at BAE Systems.
In March 2021, Nova Bus received their first U.S. order for 15 of their fully-electric, LFSe+ buses from Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS), quickly followed by another 3 from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). These orders, while they may appear small in size, are very large in impact as communities who may have otherwise never worked with Nova Bus, like San Francisco, now get to experience their technology first-hand.
This year (2022) was where the rubber met the road as the Nova Bus team worked to assemble and build these buses at their Plattsburgh, NY facility. The employees in Plattsburgh did an incredible job and this work culminated in a celebration in October to commemorate the completion and delivery of its first LFSe+ bus to MCTS. Since then, the LFSe+ has also been delivered to SFMTA.
Other key wins for Nova Bus in 2022 included:
• receiving their largest order of electric buses (40 in total with options) from Houston, Texas in February;
• two contracts from the MTA – one for 135 clean-diesel buses and another for 5 fully-electric buses;
• their first contract with the City of Huntsville Alabama for 12 clean diesel buses; and,
• achieving Altoona certification of their LFSe+ in September.
These U.S. orders, in addition to other large orders being placed/built in Canada, are just the beginning. We anticipate even more U.S. orders for the LFSe+ to be announced in the not-too-distant future and these will keep Nova’s Plattsburgh plant and many local suppliers busy for years to come.
In addition to these new contracts, Nova Bus also was awarded Business of the Year for 2022 by the North Country Chamber of Commerce at its Annual Dinner event in March. This award recognized Nova’s strategic importance of position our region in the clean energy economy.
As you can see, 2022 was a strong year for the the road sector of our cluster and we anticipate that the best is yet to come!
Alstom formally merged with Bombardier Transportation in January of 2021. As many know, Bombardier opened their rolling-stock manufacturing site in Plattsburgh in 1995 following the closure of Plattsburgh Air Force Base. Alstom’s acquisition of Bombardier has made the Plattsburgh plant an even more competitive player in the market with its new added assets and abilities through Alstom.
Since the acquisition, the Chamber and NAmTrans have developed several new, valuable relationships with senior Alstom team members and, as we had done with Bombardier in the past, we are doing everything in our power to support their operations including bringing key members of the NYS legislature and other stakeholders to see their impressive Plattsburgh plant firsthand.
Looking to the future, the Plattsburgh Alstom plant is on course to be very busy over the next 5-7 years as a result of a large contract from New Jersey Transit (NJT). This contract, originally awarded to Bombardier, is for 113 Multilevel III commuter cars (with options for up to 886 additional cars). In February, the NJ Transit Board exercised part of this option to purchase an additional 25 cars. Production is now in full swing on this project.
In support of this contract, Alstom’s Plattsburgh facility will need over 50 trained/skilled welders. To support Alstom, the Chamber and NAmTrans were able to secure a $285,600 grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission to provide no-cost welding training at Clinton Community College’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing (IAM) in partnership with Lincoln Electric. The first training is scheduled to begin in April 2023.
In addition, in July 2022, Alstom announced the creation of an innovation center for clean energy technologies at its headquarters in Quebec. Its primary mission will be to develop hybrid, battery, and hydrogen propulsion technologies for the North American rail freight and passenger markets. The Chamber and NAmTrans have been heavily engaged with the center and the center director, Eric Rondeau, having helped facilitated conversations with key stakeholders such as the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). These conversations with NYSERDA are around the New York-led Hydrogen Hub initiative and we expect that there will be many exciting announcements around these partnerships in 2023!
Even into late 2022, the commercial aerospace market continues to recover from the effects and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, Norsk Titanium continued to grow and show great progress across three core segments: aerospace, defense, and industrial markets.
In aerospace, Norsk continues to produce parts for Boeing Tier-1 suppliers, amongst other customers. They are making great progress toward obtaining supplier status for Airbus among other commercial aerospace customers – having printed materials for Airbus machine qualification and developed Airbus A350 parts for an industrial trial.
Norsk also continued to further cement themselves as a key-supplier and piece of the defense industry – having completed full-scale testing with General Atomics and another US DoD prime contractor this year. They also supported a US DoD prime contract in ongoing qualification tests of RPD material and received a contract for development of a large structural component from a US DoD prime contractor.
Norsk most recently announced their first foray into industrial manufacturing with a new contract with Hitech. Norsk will be manufacturing carrier tray preforms for the semiconductor industry in Plattsburgh, NY. This contract demonstrates Norsk’s ability to bring value and slot into any existing supply chain in the industrial market.
Having shown continued growth across all three sectors in 2022 – there is confidence at Norsk that this will enable a transition to full-scale serial production in 2023. The sky is the limit!
The other main aerospace manufacturer in our region, Beta Technologies with their industry leading ALIA electric vertical take off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, has continued to grow at an incredible rate. By April of 2022, Beta had announced they had raised more than $375 million in Series B funding, bringing the total venture funding for the company to nearly $800 million.
The company already has firm orders from UPS, United Therapeutics, Bristow, Blade, and LCI amongst many others. In addition, the U.S. Air Force and Army are also closely evaluating Beta’s aircraft for its use – with the company making history in March 2022 when two US Air Force pilots flew ALIA in Plattsburgh, marking the first-ever Airmen to fly an electric aircraft with a military worthiness.
The company has now expanded in Vermont – with a new battery production plant in St. Albans – and has solid plans for growth in Plattsburgh where the planes will be painted/finished, test flown, and delivered to customers.
Beta has been working closely with CV-TEC, our local vocational school, to set-up a new composite painting training program for it’s students which will help create a new talent pipeline for future employees at Beta’s Plattsburgh site.
And all the while, the North Country Chamber of Commerce and NAmTrans have worked diligently throughout the year to provide the support needed to not only to the manufacturers listed above, but the growing 50+ companies here in the North Country to ensure they have what they need to succeed, grow, and thrive.
But we could not, and did not, do it alone. So, we would like to express our sincere appreciation for our many regional economic development partners, our wonderful local educational institutions, and the entire staff at the North Country Chamber of Commerce (of whom we are a subsidiary). We’d be remiss not to also give special recognition to our advisory board members and every company that comprises our cluster for their support and investment in our region.
Finally, we would also like to thank Assemblyman Billy Jones who believes in our mission and has consistently provided the financial support to make NAmTrans, and the support we provide to our manufacturers, a reality.
Check out the highlights from 2022 and some of our work on the cluster’s behalf below:
• Successfully hosted the 2nd iteration of our Quebec-NY Transportation Rendezvous & B2B event on March 22, 2022 in Plattsburgh, NY. Despite COVID restrictions, the event attracted more than 150 attendees who engaged in over 100 B2B meetings.
• Updated our partnership agreement with Aero Montreal – Montreal’s premier aerospace cluster – with updated language around collaboration to accelerate the decarbonization of the aerospace industry.
• Signed a new partnership agreement with Propulsion Quebec – Quebec’s premier cluster for electric and smart transportation.
• Secured a $285,600 grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) to offer no-cost welding training at Clinton Community College’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing in partnership with Lincoln Electric. First training to be hosted in Spring 2023.
• Filmed a new employee interview video with Alstom employees that will be used to promote welding training and to help with Alstom’s workforce recruitment needs.
• Worked closely with the North Country Workforce Partnership and Clinton Community College to secure funding from Xometry to provide scholarships for up to 40 students to obtain training on Advanced Manufacturing skills at Clinton Community College. First training launched in Fall 2022 with a full cohort of students.
• Helped provide a variety of training to over 45 employees from 8 different cluster companies through a combination of virtual and in-person training programs. Training included on-the-job training, leadership skills, digital marketing, essentials of advanced manufacturing, and more. Training provided in partnership with support from our partners at CITEC, the Workforce Development Institute, the North Country Workforce Development Partnership/OneWorkSource, Clinton Community College, and more.
• Successfully led a delegation of NAmTrans cluster companies to Buffalo, NY for a day of conversations and meetings with MTA Chairman Janno Lieber and NYS Senator Tim Kennedy, Chair of the NYS Senate Transportation Committee.
• Attended and exhibited at the Farnborough International Airshow in England in July. Met with international aerospace manufacturers and told the story of all that our region has to offer for those looking to enter the U.S. market. We remain in touch with prospects met at the event.
• Officially welcomed 4 new companies to the NAmTrans Cluster including Neff Automation, Elasto Proxy, United Air Technologies, and more.
• Presented on NAmTrans and our North Country Transportation Equipment Cluster as part of the International Economic Development Council’s 2022 webinar series.
• Continued our successful “On-the-Job with Joel” video series that tells the story of how transit buses and trains are built in the North Country. Videos are meant to dispel myths around working in manufacturing and expose the public to career opportunities. Also released special edition of On-the-Job with Joel at Vapor Stone Rail Systems featuring Assemblyman Billy Jones. Seven (7) videos were released in total and have garnered more than 46,500 views on YouTube alone.
• Exhibited at career fair in Watertown for employees being released from New York Air Brake. Collected and distributed job openings from over 20 manufacturers.
• Maintained frequent communication with cluster companies throughout the year and assisted them in navigating needs relating to workforce, supply chain issues, training needs, HR questions, and more.
• Partnered with FuzeHub and the Alliance for Manufacturing & Technology (AMT) to successfully host “NYS Keeps the World Moving” in Corning, NY. Event was attended by over 106 attendees and 21 exhibitors that engaged in over 150 B2B meetings throughout the day.
• Welcomed four new members to the NAmTrans Advisory Board and held five meetings over the course of the year.
• Concluded our digital workforce recruitment ad campaign, which in over 5 months resulted in over 1,300 people visiting our careers tab on namtrans.org and over 350 clicks on at least one of the “apply now” buttons.
• Assisted the North Country Chamber of Commerce in leading visits from, and conversations with, a number of federal, state, and Canadian elected officials/stakeholders around topics important to the cluster. Officials and stakeholders included but were not limited to: Congresswoman Elise Stefanik; Governor Kathy Hochul; U.S. Ambassador to Canada – David Cohen; eight (8) key members of Governor Hochul’s staff; Chris Saunders, Chair of the NBRC; NYSERDA President/CEO Doreen Harris; new President of Clarkson University Marc Christensen; Quebec’s Delegate General in New York, Martine Hébert; Senator Tim Kennedy; MTA Chairman Janno Lieber; and many others.
• Continued to build our social media presence, posting regular content and attracting nearly 1,600 followers across all platforms.
• Attended and exhibited at the Aero Montreal International Aerospace Innovation Forum in Montreal in September. Met with international aerospace manufacturers and told the story of all that our region has to offer for those looking to enter the U.S. market. We are actively working with prospects that we met at the event.
• Continued to send our monthly newsletter, “NAmTrans News”, to a growing subscriber base of more than 1,650 contacts. New sponsors of NAmTrans News in 2022 included Alstom, UFirst Federal Credit Union, the Clinton County IDA, and CITEC.
• Actively worked with NYSERDA to bring cluster companies onboard their Strategic Energy Management (SEM) program.
• Helped support the North Country Workforce Partnership’s Authentic STEM initiative by making industry connections for possible projects, bringing cluster companies interested in participating to the table, and providing letters of support for funding opportunities.
• Helped facilitate the signing of a partnership agreement between Clinton Community College and Lincoln Electric which would put CCC on the path to one day become a Lincoln Electric Educator Partner
• Assisted with planning and organizing North Country Manufacturing Day 2022, which was the largest ever for our region, attracting over 500 local high school students. Cluster companies such as Nova Bus, Beta Technologies, Alstom, Norsk, Vapor Stone, and others attended.
• Welcomed two (2), $10,000 Platinum level sponsorships of both the Chamber and NAmTrans from Alstom and Nova Bus – recognizing the support we’ve provided and our mutual interest in maintaining Plattsburgh as a center for transit bus and rolling stock production in upstate NY.
• Represented the NAmTrans Cluster at the 33rd Annual Strictly Business Forum; assisted Strictly Business in putting together their December edition of the magazine featuring component manufacturers from the transportation equipment industry.