Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno speaks to reporters after a celebration ceremony at the factory of CRRC in Springfield, Massachusetts, the United States, on Dec. 18, 2018. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)
by Xinhua writers Zhu Dongyang, Gao Pan, Hu Yousong
SPRINGFIELD, The United States, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- For Stephanie Pollack, this year's holiday gifts are somewhat special.
"I can't think of a better holiday present" than the two newly rolled-out rail cars set to replace the old ones running on Boston's Orange Line for decades, said the head of the Transportation Department for the U.S. state of Massachusetts.
The two cars, the first pair of the 404 next-generation rail vehicles being built by the U.S. factory of Chinese rail car manufacturer CRRC will be delivered to Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), a division of Pollack's Department, for further tests before entering into service in the coming months.
A NEW LOOK
It was a sunny yet icy day for Springfield, a city in Massachusetts. Hundreds of people, including U.S. and Chinese workers, political and business leaders and journalists all swarmed into CRRC MA's assembly factory, the corporation's North American hub, to applaud the roll-out of two subway cars on Dec. 18.
The facility itself was quite impressive, with local media saying the interior was big enough for three and a half football fields.
The compartments have a number of new features compared to their retiring cousins, like air conditioning and heating units, physically challenged-friendly doors and a wheelchair area that can transform into regular seating with jump seats folding up and away.
To ensure safe travels, the CRRC also equipped the new model with crash energy management, LCD passenger information displays and CCTV cameras, replete with next-generation technology.
Shira Irvine is an electrical assembler. The factory has given her a hard-to-come-by job in this industrially decrepit area.
"I've been working here eight months ... we install all the cameras, all the lighting. Anything that functions, we do it," she said. "I love my job. This is something new, something exciting. I feel important that I'm a part of something so big."
"I plan on making it my career. I want to retire from here," she told Xinhua.
For Vernon Jones, a welder at the factory, the enthusiasm was palpable.
"I've been following the CRRC since I found out it was going to be breaking ground here," he said.
The Chinese company has created at least 150 direct jobs, but its contribution to local development is more than that, according to Domenic Sarno, mayor of Springfield.
The company "took a vacant or decrepit area and transform it to a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility that I'd say would rival anything in the world for manufacturing rail cars."
With Chinese investment here, the city has been itching to preserve its history and retake its past manufacturing glory.
GLOBALIZATION VS. LOCALIZATION
The cooperation with Springfield City is part of the CRRC's globalization drive. For the Chinese company, "globalization" sometimes has similar implications with "localization," when it comes to doing business in a foreign country of a different culture.
CRRC MA President Jia Bo told Xinhua that his company has managed to get along well with local labor unions in Springfield despite some difficulties.
"We have hired local public relations experts. We have tremendous cooperation with the union. We have signed employment contracts with them and have carried out public services for local communities," he said. "They have been truly helpful in our production and operation."
Jia added that with the expected increase of capacity in the future, the company is likely to employ more local workers.
But for the Chinese enterprise, its globalization strategy has brought more partners worldwide into its localization project in the United States.
"We may have projects in Los Angeles in 2020, and Philadelphia also that year. We have hired over 200 employees in the U.S., but that does not mean it's all about the U.S.," Jia said. "The car shells were made in China, while the main pieces of equipment were made in the U.S. Meanwhile, companies from other nations investing here are also getting involved. Our traction system was produced in the United States by Japan's Mitsubishi."
"It is fair to say that our assembly factory assembles components as part of a global supply chain," he noted.
"This is a good example of China-U.S. win-win cooperation and will benefit plenty of livelihoods," said Huang Ping, Chinese consul general in New York. "We would like to see more successful businesses like CRRC MA and more win-win results."
"This is really a partnership...There are people in both countries who benefit not just from the work but also from the product," Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said.
"NO MATTER WHAT"
Despite Washington's punitive tariffs on Chinese products, Governor Baker was resolute in upgrading the Greater Boston's old subway cars.
"We're replacing cars here that are 50 years old, and they have 2 million miles on them," he told Xinhua. "This is important, and we're going to get it done ... no matter what."
Admitting that trade tensions between China and the United States is concerning, he noted that cooperation is "worth it at the end of the day for the commonwealth and for the ridership."
"It (trade dispute) is a big issue for everybody that is doing business like this, but it's not going to change our commitment to the project," he said.
Speaking of the U.S. tariff threats and moves against Chinese products, Springfield Mayor Sarno said that he, together with Governor Baker and some lawmakers in Washington D.C., have written letters to Washington, urging waivers on tariffs pertaining to China and "specifically to the railway manufacturing going on in Springfield, Massachusetts."
According to one of his letters to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) in September, Sarno said that the CRRC's success is "critical" to his city and the regional economy if it wishes to bring back manufacturing and skilled labor.
The two rail cars unveiled are "just the beginning of a multi-billion-dollar investment that will essentially rebuild first the orange line and then the red line for the MBTA and really position them for the 21st century," Pollack of the state's transportation department told the audience at the roll-out ceremony.
"To my colleagues from Los Angeles and from Philadelphia, we're delighted that you too will be taking advantage of this wonderful factory ... and I wish you all the luck in the world," Pollack said. "I just want mine first."
(Video editor: Zhao Xiaoqing)