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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Talgo might move plant to Illinois if Walker kills train project

From an article by Larry Sanders in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

A Spanish-owned train company would seriously consider moving its plant from Milwaukee to Illinois in 2012 if Governor-elect Scott Walker follows through on his vow to kill a planned high-speed rail line, a company executive said Wednesday night.

Also Wednesday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn sent Talgo Inc. a letter inviting the company to move to his state and promising to do whatever he could to lure it there.

Talgo has built a manufacturing plant at the former Tower Automotive property on Milwaukee's north side, with employment projected to reach 125 by next year. It has initial contracts to build two trains for Amtrak's existing Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line and two trains for Oregon. Fulfilling those contracts will keep the plant in business through the spring of 2012.

The company also was hoping to build trains for a new Hiawatha extension from Milwaukee to Madison. But Walker, the Milwaukee County executive, has promised to halt work on the federally financed $810 million high-speed rail line, saying he doesn't want Wisconsin taxpayers to pick up $7.5 million a year in operating costs.

"If Wisconsin is losing its enthusiasm for its rail program and others are not, we could go to Illinois and manufacture world-class trains there," said Nora Friend, Talgo vice president for public affairs and business development. "We certainly appreciate Gov. Quinn reaching out to us. We will consider very seriously states that want to grow their rail program."

Friend emphasized that Talgo had no plans to move immediately and hopes it can stay in Milwaukee. But Walker's transition office issued a statement Wednesday reiterating the Republican governor-elect's determination to end the rail project.

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