Chinese Rail Car Maker Builds Support For Possible Springfield Factory

Mar 21, 2014

Top executives from a Chinese rail car company who are considering building a $30 million factory in Springfield, Massachusetts got a look today at where their future employees might come from.  Springfield Public School officials and workforce development specialists have proposed a program to train workers to meet the company’s needs.

CNR-CRC President Lu Xiwei is flanked by Springfield Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy ( at right) and Putnam Vocational Technical High School Principal Gilbert Traverso. The school would be part of a program to train workers for the rail car factory Lu's company is considering building in Springfield
Credit WAMC

Officials with CNR-CRC of China, the world’s largest maker of passenger rail cars, toured Putnam Vocational Technical High School on Friday looking at the sheet metal, welding, robotics and automobile repair departments in the 1,350 student school.

Company president Lu Xiwei said he was impressed with what he saw and with what he was told about the high standards demanded of the students.

" I am happy to be here. I think they will be our future partner. I congratulate Springfield to have such a nice school."

 Springfield School Superintendent Dan Warwick said the public schools are part of a partnership with the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County to create employee training programs for CNR-CRC.

" A lot of our vocational shops are going to fit right into the skills they need for their workers."

Lu and other executives of the company have spent the week in Massachusetts looking to build support from local and state officials. They had two days of meetings with potential subcontractors and on Thursday visited the Statehouse in Boston. 

" I am looking for all the resources here. I need to know the local community"

The company has an option to purchase a 40- acre site that was a former Westinghouse manufacturing center and is proposing a 125,000 square- foot assembly plant.  A project of this kind with the potential for hundreds of well- paying manufacturing jobs has not been proposed in western Massachusetts in decades.

CNR-CRC has an option to buy this property in Springfield and is proposing a 125,000 square-foot assembly plant
Credit WAMC

CNR-CRC was prompted to locate the hub for its American operations in Massachusetts because it plans to bid later this year to supply hundreds of new subway cars for the MBTA, according to company spokesperson Lydia Rivera.

" There is a lot of due diligence to continue with, however the goal is to bring a North American manufacturing facility here to Springfield and provide work and develop a workforce here."

The rail car factory could employ up to 300 people and  it would cause a ripple effect for jobs at other area precision manufacturers, according to David Cruise, the present of the Hampden County REB.

"Anytime you bring in an operation of this scale you are going to have a multiplier effect around the region here that is going to significant. We have a supply chain here that will clearly be able to respond to their needs."

No time table has been announced for a final decision on building the factory in Springfield. The contract for the new MBTA subway cars, which is potentially worth $1.5 billion is expected to be awarded in November.