Feature: Chinese railway company in Chicago helps rejuvenate local community

2019-03-08 08:58:24
Summary:A new Orange Line train manufactured by China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) is pictured at Wellington ...


A new Orange Line train manufactured by China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) is pictured at Wellington Yard in Medford, a residential and industrial suburb of Boston, the United States, on May 15, 2018. 

The 21 newly hired workers appeared excited as they stood in a spacious 20,000-square-meter building belonging to China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) Sifang America in the southern suburbs of Chicago.

They will leave Chicago on Friday for China to receive a month of training.

Most knew little about China until CRRC Sifang America won a 1.3-billion-U.S.-dollar contract in 2016 to supply railcars to the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), and began to construct a factory in their neighborhood. Now they are members of the Chinese facility.

Before working for CRRC, 52-year-old Nestor Torres had worked as an electrician with a local company for 25 years. At CRRC, he will be an electrical foreman and will receive training for railcar installation in the city of Qingdao in east China's Shandong Province, where CRRC is headquartered.

"I've never been to China, [it's] going to be exciting," Torres said. "We're very good learners and fast learners."

Ceasar Rodriguez lives just 10-minute drive from the CRRC Chicago facility. "To master how to build the rail cars for CRRC, that would be my goal," the 38-year-old told Xinhua.

Rodriguez expects to grow within the CRRC, and said the hiring process wasn't easy. "There are a lot of requirements."

A lifelong local resident, Rodriguez knows his community well.

"This part of Chicago is an old area. It's been pretty desolate for quite a while, for a few decades," Rodrigue said. "With CRRC being here, it's kind of uplifted the community by bringing in so many jobs here."

The southern suburbs of Chicago used to be a hub for manufacturing. But with manufacturing jobs moving overseas, it has been more than 30 years since the last railcar was produced here and over 50 years since CTA's railcars were produced in Chicago.

Roman Delion, who also joins the facility, believes CRRC will ramp up production after testing a few cars. "We're going to do a massive higher, so they're going to be doing a lot of hiring within the year and after. So the residents in this neighborhood should have priority for hiring."

He added: "Since they're here, other companies are coming as well, other bigger companies. The economy's going to start growing and people are going to get jobs."

The 42-year-old is also vice president of the Chamber of Commerce in the community working to bring business in. "I'm really involved in my community and trying to get it to grow and trying to help all the young people to get good jobs like this."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who clinched the CRRC deal, said he had no idea what this facility would look like when sat down negotiating. "It far surpasses anything I could've ever imagined."

"CTA cars built by Chicagoans for Chicagoans in Chicago will be the new rule of the day from now on," he said proudly. "We're bringing manufacturing jobs (back to Chicago) and I want to thank the partnership."

"Having CRRC come here is exciting," said Andrea Zopp, president and CEO of World Business Chicago, "not only because we're bringing railcar manufacturing back to the south side of Chicago, but because we're creating real jobs and economic opportunity for really not only great jobs, but training."

"That economic opportunity here is critically important to all of our residents," Zopp added.

Statistics provided by Consulate General of China in Chicago show that more than 60 Chinese enterprises have either invested or launched enterprises in Chicago since 2011, with an accumulated investment exceeding three billion U.S. dollars, creating tens of thousands of jobs for local residents.

Both Torres and Rodriguez expressed interest in learning mandarin when in China. "I would like to pick it up, so I could communicate with those who work here" and come from China, Rodriguez said.

Delion has never been outside of the United States and takes this opportunity for training in China as "one in a million." He wants to see the Great Wall and Beijing. "I just want to experience everything. I don't want to do nothing western out there," Delion said. "I want to do China, you know, the full experience."

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