Sponsored by Oregon Business

United Streetcar on track with made-in-USA production

| Print |  Email
The Latest
Tuesday, March 22, 2011

By Ilie Mitaru

United Streetcar was spun off of the 67-year-old Oregon Iron Works in 2004, with the goal of supplying American-made street cars to the nation, and abroad.

The impetus for the project came in 2005, when Congress approved a spending bill which included $4 million to Trimet for an American-made street car for the city of Portland. Oregon Iron Works created United Streetcar after winning the contract to manufacture the streetcar.

The company held a press conference Monday afternoon for reaching their American-made aspirations.

Well, almost. “We’re about 70% there” said United Streetcar President Chandra Brown, the Iron Works employee who led the spin-off effort and gathered support from elected officials. The company is currently in the process of replacing the remaining foreign parts from its design, and will be producing 90%-American-made by the end of the year, says Brown.

At this point, no one is sweating the details. It was a congratulatory mood as Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood (pictured at left in the foreground, examining a streetcar component) and Congressmen Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer and Kurt Schrader toured the $4 million fabrication bay and test track at an industrial center in Clackamas.

“Of the $4 million spent on the testing plant,” Brown says, “we think it’s going to be recapped by the potentially hundreds of street cars we’ll build.” Brown says the company has $50 million in orders, with six cars slated for Portland and seven for Tucson, Arizona.

Since closing those deals United Streetcar has completed a new 43,000-square-foot streetcar assembly bay, a 3,100-square-foot streetcar track for on-site testing and a 6,400-square-foot environmental, functional and water testing bay.

In preparation for yesterday's event, United Streetcar installed a podium in front of a new streetcar scrolled with the words “Made In America.”

Brown opened by stressing the importance of state and federal funds for the project,

“We would not be here today without the help of the federal government.” She said the project proved that “it is absolutely possible to do a successful private/public partnership.”

Schrader, Defazio and Blumenauer each spoke briefly, congratulating the company and each other’s work on public transit.

“We in Oregon know that manufacturing jobs are the backbone to our economy,” said Schrader, “we want to export cars and services—not jobs—to the rest of the world.”

Transportation Secretary LaHood praised the “exceptional leadership” of Oregon’s representatives in advocating for public transit. “Streetcars have caught on in America,” he said “and now they will be built here in America.”

With the federal budget still unreconciled and varying versions of a future transportation bill floating through congress, how much federal assistance companies like Union Streetcar will receive remains unclear.

For now at least, the company can claim to be the first U.S.-based streetcar manufacturer in almost 60 years, and with orders filing in, the delegation was nothing if not optimistic.

Ilie Mitaru is an associate writer for Oregon Business.



0 #1 P-towns uniteJacq 2011-03-22 22:08:16
"Brown says the company has $50 million in orders, with six cars slated for Portland and seven for Tucson, Arizona."

Fascinating fact. It is interesting because Phoenix has already decided to follow a Portland model for its transportation and green initiatives. It would be fascinating to investigate the other Portland copy-cats: Portland's successes and the other cities that are following Portland's example.
Quote | Report to administrator

More Articles

Reader Input: Made in Oregon

November/December 2015
Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Two trends dominate the manufacturing sector: onshoring and the rise of small-scale production manufacturing, known as the "maker economy."


100 Best Nonprofits: Working for equality inside and out

October 2015
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Striving for social equity is the mission of many nonprofits, and this year’s 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon survey shows employees are most satisfied with their organizations’ fair treatment of differing racial, gender, disability, age and economic groups. But as a national discourse about racial discrimination and equity for low-income groups takes center stage, data show Oregon’s 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For still need to make progress on addressing these issues within their own organizations.


Photo Log: Vigor Industrial, Swan Island Shipyard

Tuesday, November 03, 2015



The cover story

Linda Baker
Thursday, November 12, 2015

I walked off the Vigor Industrial shipyard that day with a clear cover line in mind: the Love Boat.


The Love Boat

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Vigor’s values don’t stop at truth. Walk into a company office, conference room or on any shipyard site and you’ll most likely see a poster inscribed with the words “Truth. Responsibility. Evolution. Love.” Otherwise known as TREL, Vigor’s culture code and the prominence it is accorded can be a bit surprising to the unsuspecting shipyard visitor.


Hot Topics/Cool Talks: Tinker, Tailor, Portland Maker

The Latest
Friday, November 20, 2015



The Food Pod Grows Up

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Oregon's first generation of food entrepreneurs created a brand based on quality and craftsmanship. Can the second generation sustain it?

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02