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Szabo, who says he isn’t speaking officially for any company, doubts AnsaldoBreda will ever build a manufacturing plant in L.A. The firm has a small assembly plant in Pittsburg, Northern California, where it finishes Metro’s chronically late-arriving railcars — which the firm says are finally ready for delivery.
Szabo scoffs at Villaraigosa’s claim that an L.A. factory will materialize, creating many hundreds of local jobs. He says, “The idea of a manufacturing [plant] is more of a pipe dream. It is a humongous commitment, and you have to have multiple orders — hundreds and hundreds of railcars.”
The Weekly obtained a “white paper” prepared by Siemens for Metro, in which the German firm estimated that if it were awarded the job, it would need to hire only about 375 workers, total, in L.A. and other parts of California. In that paper, Siemens calls AnsaldoBreda’s very different claim that it would hire many hundreds of people and create hundreds of other outside jobs “grossly exaggerated.”
Hiring numbers hurriedly prepared for the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, whose members packed the recent Metro vote meeting and are demanding AnsaldoBreda get every chance to exercise its original options, claim to show that the purported L.A. plant would employ 530 people in manufacturing, and 126 more when its “corporate headquarters” move here from Pittsburg — in addition to hundreds of unverifiable jobs it claims would be created in the broader economy.
Maria Elena Durazo, the County Federation leader, says, “We’re going to be vigilant as to how the conversation takes place and that AnsaldoBreda gets a fair shot.”
But, Metro offered the Italians a chance to open an L.A. plant in 2003, after it won its now-troubled contract. The firm instead chose to build the plant in Pittsburg, where it finishes the Italian-produced outer shells for L.A.’s railcars. “We hooked them up” with L.A. redevelopment officials, recalls Snoble. “But, they said, ‘We’re going to go to Pittsburg.’” Lehane defended that choice, saying AnsaldoBreda also did finishing work for San Francisco’s cars.
Up in Pittsburg, the Italian company also floated big ideas — which did not happen. Pittsburg officials offered the company a $1 million forgivable loan if the firm created at least 200 jobs. But, in part because federal spending on transit projects was dwindling, the company didn’t create 200 jobs. Recalls Brad Nail, Pittsburg’s director of economic development, “What started out to be a major company in our city did not turn out that way.”
Lehane says the company intends to keep its Pittsburg plant, but Nail said he was “surprised” to hear from L.A. Weekly that the company is thinking of moving its modest U.S. headquarters from Pittsburg to L.A.
The company also sought a major role in Miami transit projects. Miami officials took a different tack, rejecting the firm during competitive bidding to refurbish 136 light-railcars. Ivor Myers, manager for new-vehicle acquisition, says AnsaldoBreda “hinted that they would take the initiative to assemble the cars in Miami.” But Miami officials weren’t swayed.
Why? “They were not the lowest price,” says Myers — a winning issue in Miami, if not in Los Angeles.