Many cities are turning to streetcars to ease congestion and reduce carbon emissions, but until recently, no U.S. manufacturer was meeting the growing demand. Then in 2005, Oregon Iron Works, Inc., seized the opportunity, forming United Streetcar to produce state-of-the-art, modern streetcars. After winning a competitive bid from the city of Portland, OR, United Streetcar rolled out its premiere tram in 2009—the first American-made modern streetcar in nearly 60 years. The company is now using its 250 union workers to build additional streetcars for Portland, and its cars are also operating in Seattle, WA, and Tucson, AZ.
Oregon Iron Works’ longstanding relationship with the Ironworkers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has allowed United Streetcar to build a collaborative, empowering partnership with its workers. Shop-floor design meetings bring worker ideas in at the ground level, and the company actively solicits employee feedback on all projects and processes, making the company “better, stronger, and more cost-effective,” according to United Streetcar President Chandra Brown. “The union is helpful and can be an important piece of the company and its success,” she says.
United Streetcar is doing more than creating green jobs in the Portland area; its dedication to using national suppliers is reigniting manufacturing in America. Orders with United Streetcar create or save jobs at factories across the country, from fiberglass and flooring, to seats and wheel sets.
Brown describes “in-sourcing”—bringing streetcar manufacturing jobs back to the United States from Eastern Europe—as the key to revitalizing the nation’s economy. United Streetcar is truly a model for the new, clean energy economy: helping expand energy efficient transit solutions, U.S. manufacturing, and good, union jobs.
Check this great video about the story of United Streetcar: