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L.A. mayor praises planned light-rail car plant

Villaraigosa says the AnsaldoBreda facility, which begins construction next summer at the earliest, will attract 'decent middle-class jobs' and clean-technology firms to the city.

October 01, 2009|Phil Willon

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Wednesday praised the planned construction of a light-rail car manufacturing plant along the Los Angeles River, saying it would bring "decent middle-class jobs" and attract clean technology firms to a city hard-hit by the national recession.

Italian rail-car maker AnsaldoBreda agreed to build a $70-million plant as part of its successful bid to deliver 100 additional light-rail cars to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The MTA board -- which includes Villaraigosa -- last week OKd the $300-million contract as an extension of an existing manufacturing agreement.

"At a time when most cities across the country are hemorrhaging jobs, we'll be bringing them back home," Villaraigosa said at a news conference at Union Station.

Construction of the rail facility will begin next summer at the earliest and would take about a year, officials said.

Villaraigosa cited a study by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. that estimated that the rail-car plant would deliver $368 million in "economic activity" to the region. That study was commissioned by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which lobbied the MTA board in favor of the contract.

The mayor said that, according to the study, more than 650 people would find "good-paying jobs" at the plant, and that close to 1,000 union construction workers would build the structure. The study estimated that the facility would create 2,240 jobs, with 650 employed at the plant and the remainder from outside suppliers, manufacturers and other firms.

"Definitely, this is really good news for the L.A. economy," said Jack Kyser, the chief economist for the economic development corporation.

Kyser said the economic impact figures were extrapolated from AnsaldoBreda's employment projections for its new L.A. facilities: 535 full-time positions at the plant and 126 full-time positions at the corporate headquarters.

Those figures are based on AnsaldoBreda's expectation of building 75 rail cars and refurbishing 36 more annually at the L.A. plant. However, the MTA contract is the firm's only order thus far for that plant, and the MTA expects AnsaldoBreda to produce just 12 cars a year for the transportation agency.

AnsaldoBreda officials said that by establishing a U.S.-based manufacturing plant, the firm expects to win contracts from local governments across the country and become a competitive bidder on high-speed rail contracts in California and elsewhere.

AnsaldoBreda has a tentative deal with the city's Community Redevelopment Agency to build the plant on a 14-acre, city-owned site near 15th Street and Santa Fe Avenue. The firm would pay $906,000 in rent annually over the course of a 50-year lease. The company has also agreed to pay workers at least the living wage, which is $10.30 per hour plus benefits.


Times staff writer Maeve Reston contributed to this report.

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