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Building a New Streetcar Industry in the United States

Chandra Brown, President of Oregon small business United Streetcar, explains the importance of manufacturing for our economy.

Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.

Scott Samuelson

I cannot begin to express what an honor it is to be recognized as a Champion of Change. I am thrilled that our efforts to “Make it in America” are creating an impact, and will hopefully facilitate the return of more jobs to the United States.

Upon discovering all modern streetcars were imported, I knew that we could create and offer an alternative for communities to serve their transportation and urban circulating needs.  United Streetcar was formed to build the first modern streetcars manufactured in the United States in over 59 years. Since the formation of United Streetcar, a subsidiary of Oregon Iron Works, I have come to discover just what an impact manufacturing jobs have on our economy. Oregon Iron Works is aworld-class metal fabricator, with factories in Oregon and Washington.  Backed by an experienced and capable work force, we decided to enter the modern streetcar market and create the building blocks of a new manufacturing industry right here in the USA.

Between Oregon Iron Works and United Streetcar, we employ a highly skilled and productive workforce of over 400 people.  We successfully compete in this market as demonstrated through executed contracts worth more than $50 million from the cities of Portland and Tucson. The creation of a new manufacturing industry in the United States is due to a true public-private partnership with United Streetcar investing millions of dollars, along with support of our federal, state, and local partners. Through this partnership, we have in sourced jobs away from Europe and brought them back to the United States, solidifying a new industry in which we have hundreds of suppliers across the United States now building parts for modern streetcars. We certainly would not be this successful without our workers and management who have been focused on the importance of manufacturing in the United States since our founding in 1944. US workers are some of the most productive and skilled in the world, and I am proud not only to lead United Streetcar, but also to serve on the US Manufacturing Council and I will continue to work hard to support domestic manufacturing throughout this amazing country.

Currently manufacturing makes up about 11% of our nation’s GDP. It is absolutely critical to the future success of our country that we grow this sector, not only for economic reasons, but also for our national security and the overall health of this country’s progress. Manufacturing is responsible for 70% of all private-sector research and development spending and 90% of all American patents. If we fail to restore our manufacturing base, our innovative edge and research and development capacity will also falter. Our company will out-build, out-innovate and out-educate our foreign competition, as do millions of other domestic companies. Manufacturing is a major driver of economic growth. In fact, economists have established manufacturing jobs carry among the highest indirect job creation benefits.  On average, each manufacturing job supports 2.5 jobs in other sectors, and, at the upper end, each high-tech manufacturing job supports 16 jobs; and manufacturing jobs pay 21% more in wages and benefits than the average job for the entire economy, why would we not want to be “Making it in America”?

Chandra Brown is the President of Oregon small business United Streetcar.