(Sainte-Claire) The coach manufacturer Prevost, in Bellechasse, has just obtained its largest contract in its 100-year history: the New York transport company is ordering 381 coaches worth $447 million.

All the political elite of the South Shore of Quebec gathered Tuesday afternoon in the factory which overlooks the municipality of Sainte-Claire. It was in this same town that founder Eugène Prévost founded this company in 1924, now owned by the Volvo Group.

“That’s a lot of politicians for an announcement in which there’s not a penny from the government! », laughed the federal MP for Bellechasse-Les Etchemins-Lévis, Dominique Vien.

The news is cause for joy at Prevost: the contract fills the company’s order book until 2026, increases production from three to four coaches per day and should lead to the hiring of 150 employees.

“This historic contract from the largest public transportation agency in North America is excellent news for the company,” said Prevost President François Tremblay. He notes that this major order comes as the company prepares to celebrate its centenary.

Following a call for tenders process, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) chose Prevost. A firm order calls for delivery of 250 coaches between 2025 and 2026. The MTA has an option to purchase an additional 131 coaches. The contract, estimated at $447 million, includes parts and service.

These coaches, different from urban buses, will be mainly used for commuting users in the New York suburbs. The MTA is responsible for the famous New York subway, buses, but also several coach lines.

“People from the suburbs of New York who have to go to the island of Manhattan for work, for example. These buses will pass through different boroughs like Queens to bring people to the island,” illustrated the president of Prevost.

Some 720 Prevost coaches already crisscross New York. According to the company, the reliability of the coaches already present in the Big Apple helped Prevost win the call for tenders. “One of the measures they use to evaluate a company is the time between breakdowns, and I would tell you that Prevost was much better than its competitors in this regard,” says François Tremblay.

The Buy American Act did not derail the company’s proposal, since the funds came from New York State, not the federal government. “One hundred percent of the vehicles will be produced and assembled in Sainte-Claire. We even repatriated certain pieces that we produced in the United States to Quebec producers. It will benefit all of Quebec,” promises Mr. Tremblay.

Prevost currently employs 1,704 people, including 1,087 in Sainte-Claire. The company has hired 625 people since 2022. The contract announced Tuesday should therefore make it possible to add 150. The challenge will be significant in the context where the Davie shipyard in Lévis must obtain major contracts for icebreakers. Welders will be in demand on the South Shore of Quebec…

“As a union, it’s fun. We are consolidating the jobs we have and that will provide jobs for the next two or three years. It stabilizes us,” said Benoit Tremblay, president of the factory employees’ union. The man is proof that Prevost can attract employees from almost everywhere: Mr. Tremblay has been traveling between the North Shore of Quebec and Sainte-Claire morning and evening for 28 years.

The company obtains this important contract in a context of major changes. “We are heading towards electrification around 2026,” warns the president of Prevost. François Tremblay specifies that the vehicles sold in New York are gasoline-powered.

“We must understand that electric vehicles will have a limited use, a range of less than 400 km. For us, hydrogen is really the technology of the future for long distances, he says. We are working with the federal government to try to get support. These are relatively expensive technologies to develop. »

The growth of Prevost also brings its share of opportunities to the municipality of Sainte-Claire, an industrial enclave which is trying as best it can to get the ground up for housing units. “There are more than 2,500 jobs in our municipality of 3,600 residents,” proudly says the mayor of Sainte-Claire, Guylaine Aubin. “Our last two residential developments filled up in two years. »

The mayor, however, took advantage of the interview with La Presse to send a message to the government. The primary school is overflowing, she says. The solution proposed by Quebec is raising eyebrows here: sending fifth and sixth grade children to the neighboring municipality of Saint-Anselme.

Ms. Aubin hopes that the elected officials who passed through her town on Tuesday for the announcement, including the Minister of Education, Bernard Drainville, will find another solution.

“For a growing municipality like ours? », laments the mayor. “Even in the surrounding municipalities, we can’t believe that Sainte-Claire is being deprived of public education services. »