Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and labor union leaders Wednesday said the arrival of an Italian light rail car manufacturer in Los Angeles will bring much-needed jobs to the city. The mayor and his union allies exercised their considerable power to push the AnsaldoBreda deal through. KPCC’s Frank Stoltze reports.
Frank Stoltze:The mayor gathered with labor leaders on a Gold Line rail platform at Union Station. As usual, he waited for the TV cameras to arrive.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: “I know Channel 7 is coming up here.”
Stoltze: Villaraigosa knows all the TV photographers.
Villaraigosa: “There they are. You were at the last one. But I knew you were coming. That’s why I slowed it down. 250 See I treat the camera folks really well. Reporters, not so well.”
Stoltze: Then it was show time.
Villaraigosa: (SHOUTING) “Good morning everybody (everybody responds).”
Stoltze: he mayor billed the event as a celebration of a deal to bring Italian rail car manufacturer AnsaldoBreda to Los Angeles. He played a key role in it. He worked with longtime labor allies to persuade the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board that this was the company to build 100 light rail cars for the MTA 300-million dollars.
As part of the package, the company will also build a manufacturing plant and a downtown LA headquarters that’ll employ more than 600 people. It’ll take another thousand workers to construct the facility – that’s a big reason labor lobbied hard for it. Mario Elena Durazo, who’s close to the mayor, heads the LA County Labor Federation.
Maria Elena Durazo: “Thank you to the mayor for again showing leadership on an issue that may be controversial.”
Stoltze: It’s controversial because Metro’s chief executive officer Art Leahy had urged the board – which Villaraigosa sits on – to turn down the AnsaldoBreda deal. He noted the company’s late delivery of overweight rail cars on an existing contract for 50 of them. Leahy didn’t speak at the news conference.
Glendale Mayor and Metro board chair Ara Najarian did.
Ara Najarian: “We had some tough times on the board, a lot of give and take, a lot of ups and downs on this issue.”
Stoltze: Last week, the board voted 8-3 for the deal. Board member Richard Katz said AnsaldoBreda agreed to sign a letter of credit for 75-million dollars, from which Metro can draw money if the company fails to meet its obligations.
Richard Katz: “This contract’s got more built into it than any contract I’ve ever seen.”
Stoltze: Economist Jack Kyser estimated that the project will generate more than two-thousand jobs in a region that still loses thousands of jobs a month.
Cynthia Norwood is with Glaziers Local 636 Union. The glass installer helped lobby Metro for the AnsaldoBreda deal, and the jobs that come with it.
Cynthia Norwood: “Just yesterday, I had to borrow 20 dollars from someone to put gas in my tank and it’s really, really hard.”
Stoltze: AnsaldoBreda plans to build an energy efficient facility to build light rail cars just south of downtown LA. The mayor – whose chief deputy once worked for the company – hopes it will help anchor a new clean tech corridor.
The company’s chief counsel Jeff Capaccio said his Italian bosses are pleased.
Jeff Capaccio: “Bonjour, Buenos Dias and good morning. AnsaldoBreda loves Los Angeles (applause) we love you.”
Stoltze: For AnsaldoBreda, the lucrative deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is an important expansion into the North American market for light rail cars. The company is expected to open its new LA plant in three years, and eventually, to deliver one rail car a month to Metro.