Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- Bobcat Co. plans to move 60 jobs to Wahpeton, where it has leased a building at a failed floppy diskette plant to manufacture hydraulic valves and cylinders for small loaders and light construction equipment, a company spokeswoman said Friday.

Bobcat announced plans last month to close its Bismarck manufacturing plant by the end of the year, cutting 475 jobs, and open 390 positions at its Gwinner plant southwest of Fargo.

Sixty of the jobs will go to the site of the former Imation Corp. plant in Wahpeton, Bobcat spokeswoman Laura Ness Owens said. The facility should begin producing Bobcat parts in January, she said.

Wahpeton has been working to find tenants at the plant after Imation, a Minnesota-based data-storage company, shut down at the end of last year and phased out nearly 390 jobs.

"We are definitely pleased to have Bobcat," said Jane Priebe, Wahpeton's economic development director. The town of about 8,000 that sits some 50 miles east of Gwinner touts itself as the most industrialized city in North Dakota, with other factories that make wood products, corn syrup and rubber belts for farm machinery.

Ness Owens said Bobcat would lease about 130,000 square-feet of space at the former floppy disk factory. She said a five-year lease was signed Friday.

Ness Owens and Priebe said no incentives were offered to Bobcat to relocate part of its operation to Wahpeton.

"They are paying full rent," Priebe said.

Bobcat will pay $416,000 annually to lease the building, with an option to buy it for $2.5 million after the five-year lease expires, Priebe said.

The building, owned by a nonprofit development corporation, is one of three at the former floppy disk plant. ComDel Innovation Inc., a company started by former Imation workers, owns a 141,000 square-foot building at the site. A 99,000 square-foot building owned by the development group is vacant, Priebe said.

Bobcat said the Bismarck shutdown was due to a weak worldwide economy and sluggish sales. Ness Owens said the bulk of the Bismarck plant's equipment will be moved to the Gwinner plant beginning in November and the equipment should be in place by the end of the year.

Union officials have said they expect few Bismarck workers to move to Gwinner, and that the plant there has 240 workers who are laid off and would be offered the jobs first. Ness Owens said 45 workers had been called back to work at the Gwinner plant as of Friday.

Ness Owens said production machinery from the attachment division at the Bismarck plant began moving to the company's accessories factory in Litchfield, Minn., last month. About 15 jobs will be added to the Minnesota facility, Ness Owens said. Those jobs would be filled by people who had been laid off at that plant or by new workers, she said.

Bobcat, based in West Fargo, started in Gwinner more than 60 years ago by two brothers who wanted to help turkey farmers clean their barns. The company is owned by Doosan Infracore International, a subsidiary of South Korea-based Doosan Infracore.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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