More manufacturing jobs are coming to the Antelope Valley

Transit officials and representatives from BYD Motors stand for a photo in 2016 after the transit agency voted to add more electric buses to its fleet
Transit officials and representatives from BYD Motors stand for a photo in 2016 after the transit agency voted to add more electric buses to its fleet Antelope Valley Transit Authority

Over the past ten years, Southern California has seen a lot of manufacturing jobs go away,  as American companies have moved their production lines to China.

But every once in a while, occasionally, a company comes in and bucks that trend.

Case in point: The announcement today that the Chinese company BYD has opened the largest electric bus manufacturing plant in U.S. in the city of Lancaster. 

BYD, a global behemoth in electric vehicle manufacturing, has had a presence in the Antelope Valley since 2013. After completing a huge expansion, the company's Lancaster facility now spans 450,000 square feet, or about seven football fields.

It will soon grow from 750 workers to 1,200, each of whom will earn union wages building up to 1,500 electric buses per year. Workers will be represented by the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, Local 105, BYD said in a statement.

BYD is also planning to build a second plant in Lancaster where electric trucks will be manufactured, said Lancaster's Director of Economic Development Vern Lawson, who credited the region's long history in aerospace for the interest from BYD and other companies. 

"Because of our availability of land and our skilled labor force, which has the aerospace skills, we’ve been very fortunate to get these larger contracts," he said.

That growth has helped bring down the region’s unemployment rate from a high of about 16 percent during the recession to just 5 percent now.

The two BYD plants will generate an estimated $1.4 million dollars a year in tax revenue, which will go into Lancaster's general fund, Lawson said.

The Antelope Valley is also home to a manufacturing plant owned by the Japanese firm Kinkisharyo, which builds Metro rail cars, employing about 400 people. Another 600 workers in Lancaster work at Lance Camper, which builds travel trailers and campers.

Over the years, Lancaster and Palmdale have seen ups and downs in aerospace, and have worked to attract other transportation manufacturers to town.

"We’ve never been content to rest on our aerospace laurels," he said. "We’ve worked hard to diversify our economy by attracting non-aerospace manufacturing into the city.

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