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Litchfield Bobcat plant expecting change

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LITCHFIELD -- Doosan Infracore International Attachments in Litchfield, known by many as an attachments factory for Bobcat Company, will see some changes in upcoming months as the demand for construction equipment declines and the struggling economy affects other Bobcat Company plants.

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Nikki Bruce, communications manager for Bobcat Company headquarters in West Fargo, N.D., said Friday that DII Attachments in Litchfield will undergo a transitioning period because a similar attachments plant in Georgia will be closed before December.

According to Associated Press reports, Bobcat Co. announced last week it would close an attachments plant in Carrollton, Ga., because of falling demand for company products. The factory closing, scheduled for Nov. 23, will eliminate 147 jobs. The plant has been manufacturing Bobcat attachments since 2005.

Bruce said DII Attachments "will see an impact" from the factory closing in Georgia and will be included in a consolidation process of four Bobcat Company facilities.

Bruce could not provide many details regarding the transition because many decisions have not been made. But Bruce did say some of the work load from the Georgia plant will be transferred to Litchfield.

About seven months ago, the Tribune reported little variance to operations at DII Attachments after Ingersoll-Rand Company Ltd. sold its Bobcat division in July 2007 to South Korean-based Doosan Infracore International. Bobcat Co. was sold for almost $5 billion.

Information about the Georgia factory closing came a few days after dismal news about two North Dakota plants was released.

According to news releases provided by Bruce, Bobcat Co. announced that production at its factories in Gwinner and Bismarck, N.D., would be suspended for six weeks, starting Dec. 15. The two plants, which manufacture larger equipment such as the Bobcat skid-steer loader, have about 2,000 employees who are expected to return to work in February.

Most recently, Bobcat Co. also informed its facilities that it was offering voluntary severance packages to employees at the Bismarck plant and its headquarters in West Fargo.

"Demand for all construction equipment has decreased substantially over the past several months," said Rich Goldsbury, president of Bobcat Americas, in an Oct. 23 news release. "Other industrial equipment manufacturers have made similar moves recently, including layoffs and the closing of plants."

In April, Litchfield's plant manager, Rick Fernstrom, said the new owners hadn't visited his factory often because the Litchfield plant was one of the most cost-effective branches under the Bobcat name. He also said ownership was urging the plant to keep innovating with its attachment prototypes in its research and development center.

The Litchfield factory produces about 4,000 to 5,000 sweeper and snowblower attachments each year.

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