Havre faces effects of Burlington Northern cuts

Montana State Roundup

Published July 1, 1992  | July 1992 issue

With Burlington Northern (BN) Railroad's recent announcement to eliminate approximately 190 jobs at the Havre locomotive repair shop in August, both families and city officials are uncertain about what the future holds.

Between 50 and 60 shop workers will remain, according to BN officials, whose Montana division headquarters are located in Havre.

BN will offer workers transfers to Seattle, St. Paul or Lincoln, Neb., where major repairs on locomotives will be made. Many workers are expected to accept the transfers, according to officials, and the railroad will assist with moving expenses and possible losses from sales of workers' homes.

With many families expected to transfer, the possible economic effects on the city are unknown. Havre, located in north central Montana with a population of approximately 10,000, has been dependent on BN as the city's largest employer.

It is Havre's diverse economy which will enable the city to survive the cutbacks, says Pam Harada, manager of the Montana Job Services office in Havre. Harada says that Havre is the regional medical and retail center, the area's agricultural base and the home of Northern Montana College.

Lisa Kudrna, manager of the Havre Chamber of Commerce, agrees. The largest K-Mart store in the state is under construction just outside Havre, and many other new stores are coming to the city, which will help the area's retail business, Kudrna says. "We do have things that are real active that are going on." However she also says that the jobs likely won't provide the same quality of pay as BN.

Kudrna says that by working to develop the tourism industry, Havre officials hope to bring more people to the area. Also, Havre Mayor Don Driscoll has established an economic recovery task force to help secure economic opportunities in the city, according to Harada.

Havre schools are facing an overcrowding problem and could see some relief from the BN cutbacks if many families with children accept transfers. "I think the school system will hold its own. I don't believe it will hurt us there," Kudrna says.

Jahnelle Harrigan