Production of SEPTA's Silverliner V cars is speeding along at South Philadelphia's Hyundai Rotem plant, as members of a City Council delegation learned during a tour led by Councilman David Oh yesterday.
Despite delays that pushed the production more than a year behind schedule, the plant has delivered all but 39 rail cars to SEPTA, representatives said. Those remaining should be ready between May and June of this year.
The South Korean-based company chose Philadelphia as its central US location when it made the international leap in 2004, spending between $20 and $30 million to renovate its Weccacoe Avenue facility and employing a little over 300 local workers.
"It's an overseas company that could have gone anywhere in the US, but chose Philadelphia," Oh said, adding that the move was important because it brought a new skill to workers in the country: high speed train manufacturing.
Business development manager Andrew Hyer said that a big part of the decision was location: Hyundai's Philadelphia plant is close to the Delaware River port and located within 250 miles of New York City, where over 80 percent of the rail market resides. There was also demand, as the US is among the fastest growing markets for high speed rail.
Oh's tour will culminate Friday in a discussion between Hyundai and Council of what caused the Silverliners' completion date to be changed several times.
"We need to have a frank discussion about what part of the delays were caused by [Hyundai]'s inexperience working in the US and what we could have done better as a city, state and government," Oh said. "It will be very helpful to us to understand what the issues are and how we can be more competitive as a city."
The tour was the centerpiece of Oh's ongoing push to bring more international businesses to Philadelphia. "We have to understand this type of company if we are going to be reforming laws to get them to come here," he said. "It's also to show legislators so when you do introduce the legislation, it's well-received and passed."
His desired reforms include tax reductions, a streamlining of regulations and establishment of an oversight committee for relocating overseas companies, a more uniform process of attracting new businesses to Philadelphia, closer work with federal officials and possibly some kind of initiative to garner more overseas investments.