A Chinese-owned rail car factory in Springfield, Massachusetts will stay in business despite attempts by some in Washington to shut it down.
A Pentagon spending bill passed by the Democratic-controlled U.S. House and by the Senate, where Republicans are in charge, contains language beneficial to CRRC-MA, the Chinese-owned passenger rail car manufacturer that has an assembly plant in Springfield.
There had been a bi-partisan effort in Washington to block federal funds for transportation projects from going to Chinese-owned firms. But now CRRC will be able to keep doing business in the United States albeit with a few restrictions.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said it is a huge relief.
"This is great news for the city of Springfield," said Sarno.
Sarno said the credit for saving the factory -- and about 200 jobs -- goes to Democratic Congressman Richard Neal.
"That is the clout that he has and that is extremely important," said Sarno.
CRRC is assembling new subway cars for Boston’s MBTA at the Springfield factory.
In a statement, Neal said, “These rail cars are being built for Massachusetts residents, by Massachusetts residents at a competitive wage with negotiated health and retirement benefits. This employer is important to Springfield and the region.”
In addition to the MBTA, CRRC has contracts to build trains at the Springfield factory for public transit systems in Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
The language in the National Defense Authorization Act allows CRRC to do additional work for those current customers and gives it a two-year window to bid on federally-funded transit projects across the country, except for Washington DC’s Metro.
Critics contend that CRRC unfairly undercuts its competition and some believe it could be a threat to national security.
CRRC-MA spokesperson Lydia Rivera said the company is grateful to Neal for taking a “stern” stance on their behalf.
"It is about jobs and improving the local economy in western Massachusetts," said Rivera.
With production schedules to keep for the Boston and Philadelphia transit systems, CRRC plans to add about 80 workers in Springfield in 2020, according to Rivera.
"We are going to continue to identify procurement opportunities across the country and will bring this work to the Springfield facility," Rivera said.
When the MBTA awarded CRRC an $800 million contract in 2014 to build more than 400 new Orange Line and Red Line subway cars, it mandated that the final assembly take place in Massachusetts.
CRRC built a $95 million factory on Page Boulevard in east Springfield on the site of the former Westinghouse manufacturing complex, which during its heyday employed 5,000 people.
Since arriving in Springfield, CRRC has worked with local trade unions, the city’s vocational high school, area colleges, and the regional employment board to develop a skilled workforce for the factory.
The factory also purchases goods and services from dozens of local suppliers.