Rail car manufacturer offers to buy vacant Super Steel site

An international manufacturer of rail cars is offering to buy Super Steel’s vacant locomotive manufa

An international manufacturer of rail cars is offering to buy Super Steel’s vacant locomotive manufacturing plant in the Glenville Business and Technology Park, a transportation official said.

The San Francisco-based AnsaldoBreda Inc., a unit of AnsaldoBreda S.p.A. of Italy, tendered an offer the week of June 6 to Super Steel Products Corp. of Milwaukee, Wis., to buy the Glenville plant and its equipment, according to Walter Zmuda, director of surface transportation for the Niagara Frontier Transit Authority.

Super Steel built the plant in 1996 but shuttered it in April, laying off 175 workers. The company cited a loss of orders going into the new year in the freight locomotive business for the closure.

Zmuda made the announcement at NFTA’s Surface Transportation Committee meeting June 18 in Buffalo. NFTA oversees light rail and bus operations for the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, Niagara Falls International Airport, and the Metro Bus and Rail in Erie and Niagara counties.

NFTA has a $32 million contract, signed in May 2006, with AnsaldoBreda to refurbish 27 light rail cars. AnsaldoBreda had subcontracted with Super Steel to do the work at its Glenville plant.

When Super Steel closed the plant, AnsaldoBreda was forced to find a different subcontractor for the work, Zmuda said. It is currently using Gray Manufacturing Industries LLC in Hornell to refurbish two light rail cars.

Zmuda said this is a short-term solution. AnsaldoBreda’s long-term strategy is to buy the Super Steel plant to complete the rest of the work, he said. If the deal falls through, AnsaldoBreda will continue working with GMI, Zmuda said.

GMI would have to gear up its plant to take on the rest of the project, a NFTA official said.

Representatives from Super Steel and AnsaldoBreda did not return phone calls for comment.

NFTA spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer said NFTA is closely monitoring developments involving AnsaldoBreda, Super Steel and GMI. “We want to get these cars rebuilt within a reasonable schedule,” he said.

Said Zmuda about the latest developments: “I am more optimistic now than I was five months, three months ago that this will all come to a successful conclusion.”

NFTA’s contract with AnsaldoBreda calls for the rail cars to be finished by 2010. Hartmayer said the cars are 25 years old.

Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen confirmed AnsaldoBreda and Super Steel are in negotiations, “which is encouraging, but there is no signed deal.”

Gillen said: “There is clearly an opportunity here. AnsaldoBreda is a well-known and well-respected company in the transportation industry. They know the plant well and negotiations continue.”

Ray Meadley, president of the New York Public Transit Association and executive director of the Capital District Transportation Authority, said reopening the Super Steel plant makes sense.

He said the federal government plans to spend some $13 billion to upgrade the country’s railroad infrastructure, and there will be a demand for manufacturing facilities.

“From my end, you have existing infrastructure [at Super Steel in Glenville] and you have people who worked there and are trained, and you have idle capacity and this demand that needs to be filled,” he said.

“In the long term, there is an interest in high-speed rail, and the industry is well-positioned for investment,” Meadley said.

Gillen said the Super Steel plant, which refurbished and manufactured freight locomotives, can easily handle the transformation to light rail work. “The building works for the transit industry,” he said.

Glenville officials said Super Steel continues to pay property taxes on the plant.

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