In February 2017, several newspapers in north Texas carried the story that 250 workers were being laid off from a General Electric facility in Fort Worth that makes locomotives. Now, that same plant has plans to bring back nearly double that workforce by the end of the summer.
When the factory opened in 2013 it was strictly used to build new locomotives for General Electric, producing up to 500 a year. As the industry slowed down, the company found themselves with less work. To combat the rising layoffs they put in place a strategy they called “modernization.”
It involves taking an older locomotive, tearing it down and putting in all new digital equipment. The engine remains, but all the other parts of the locomotive get updated to the point where it’s basically a new machine.
The factory is a 1 million square foot facility in Fort Worth that does every process of modernization.
“They’ll do welding, they’ll do fabrication, they’ll do assembly,” Shine says. “And so that when it rolls out it’s ready to be put to work.”
Going forward, General Electric will be forced to respond to some less-than-ideal financial performances that led investors to pressure the company to simplify their business. Analysts have speculated this might include divesting itself of the transportation unit, which would include the locomotive plant. It’s unclear how this would affect the facility but it could mean it would still exist under a different name. Shine says the company’s survival shows how encompassing the region’s economy is.
“It speaks to the expansive breadth of the DFW economy,” Shine says. “It really speaks to what a little bit of good business strategy and taking a fresh approach to stuff can help turn around a business that maybe had been in some tough times.”
Written by Jeremy Steen.