Two companies competing to supply new subway cars to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority would build the assembly plant in Springfield if awarded the lucrative government contract.
Hyundai Rotem of South Korea plans to build a $30 million factory at what is now a vacant warehouse on Progress Ave. in Springfield, if it wins the contract to build 200 subway cars for the MBTA. Chinese railcar-maker CNR Changchun will locate an assembly plant at the former Westinghouse factory property if it is the successful bidder. Both sites are on Springfield’s east side.
Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Ciuffreda likes the city’s chances with two bidders in contention.
" I am guardedly optimistic that one of them will be successful."
Several other companies are bidding for the contract that could be worth up to $1.5 billion, but only Hyundai and Changchun have committed to the location of possible manufacturing facilities. Changchun officials disclosed their plans last spring, Hyundai waited until last week to make an announcement.
Changchun got a jump on meeting earlier this year with prospective suppliers to discuss its needs for locally produced goods and services. Hyundai had a forum planned with local businesses Thursday.
Both companies estimate a factory to produce subway cars would result in up to 200 full time jobs. Ciuffreda believes Springfield was attractive to the two companies because the vocational schools and colleges in the region have programs to prepare people to fill the jobs.
"I really think we have our workforce development in line with the needs of the business community for the foreseeable future."
Hyundai already has a railroad car assembly plant in Philadelphia. Changchun is planning to use the Springfield factory, if built, as the base of the company’s North American operations, according to spokesperson Lydia Rivera.
The MBTA opted not to use any federal money to build the subway cars, so it can stipulate that the final assembly work take place in Massachusetts, according to Springfield Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy.
" From a practical and political point of view the T does itself some goodwill by doing some business out here in western Mass," said Kennedy.
Officials in Pittsfield are also trying to lure a railcar manufacturer to the former General Electric property
The MBTA is expected to announce the winning bidder by the end of next month.