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Still on Fire

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  • | 6:00 p.m. January 5, 2009
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Still on Fire

A Bradenton manufacturer of super tough fire trucks keeps on motoring. It's fueled partially by Army contracts.

In June, when Pierce Manufacturing officials touted a landmark $28 million contract to build fortified firefighting trucks for the U.S. Army, they hoped it would be the beginning of a long relationship.

Not only was the contract lucrative, it served as buffer for the overall economic downturn. Pierce, which runs a 430-employee facility in Bradenton, had already begun to see a slight slowdown in its other main business, building fire trucks and ambulances for municipal and local governments.

Those hopes have been answered. The company has since been awarded two more government contracts by the U.S. Army to build more non-tactical vehicles.

The first contract, awarded in late July, was a three-year, $9.8 million deal to build at least 68 mini-pumpers to be used by the Army in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

A Pierce press release says the trucks are being customized for the Army and the Afghan National Police so they can be used in the arid and rugged countryside. The add-ons include a 325-horsepower engine, a high-tech backup battery, telescoping exterior side mirrors and a heavy-duty air conditioning system with four dash-mounted air registers.

In October, a few months after the mini-pumper announcement, Pierce officials said they had been awarded another Army contract. This one, for regular size pumper vehicles, is for $10.7 million. And like the mini-pumpers, these pumpers will be for the Army to use in Afghanistan.

"Our soldiers deserve the very best in firefighting and rescue performance," said Pierce executive Wilson Jones in a statement. Jones runs Pierce for the manufacturers' parent company, publicly traded Oshkosh, Wisc.-based Oshkosh Corp. "We are proud to provide vehicles that will be used in the rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq."

Some of the work in the new deals will be done at the company's Bradenton facility, while other parts will be assembled at its Appleton, Wisc. headquarters.

In Bradenton, the company continues to work on its first Army contract, to build 60 military-grade, high-end fire and rescue trucks known as Hewatts.

Pierce's parent company, Oshkosh, suffered a massive share price decline in 2008, like most other publicly traded companies. Shares dropped to as low as $4 after nearly passing $50 at one point in the year.

But revenues continued to rise. The company doesn't break out revenues for each division, but overall it reported $7.13 billion in fiscal 2008 revenues, a 12% increase over its $6.3 billion in 2007 revenues.

-Mark Gordon


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