Honda project begins at Port of Richmond

October 27, 2009 7:06:29 PM PDT
Big money and lots of jobs are coming to the city of Richmond. Honda broke ground today on a new project at the Port of Richmond to import and distribute cars from Japan.

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While the rest of the nation is in a recession, automakers have said they are in a depression. American Honda isn't doing much better than the others, but they are looking into the future which now includes the Port of Richmond.

It's called the Honda Port of Entry Project -- a 15-year plus deal making the Port of Richmond one of three entry points for Honda cars coming from Japan. The other two facilities are in San Diego and Portland.

"We will be importing all the cars that come from Japan, which is only about 20 percent of what we sell in the United States. Significantly we will be importing all three of our hybrid electric hybrid vehicles, the Insight, the Civic Hybrid and the CR-Z, which s a new car that starts next year," said Scott Crail from American Honda Motor Company.

This new plant comes at a time when jobs are much needed in Richmond. The unemployment rate stands at 18 percent, much higher than the state numbers.

California's September unemployment rate was 12 percent.

Auto Warehousing Company will handle the day-to-day operations for Honda creating about 250 jobs.

"We will be providing jobs for the teamsters' union. We will provide jobs for the truck drivers who will be moving product in and out. We will provide jobs for the railroad and for all the locomotive that will be coming in and out of the facility besides the long shore," said Steve Seher from Auto Warehouse Company.

Richmond is unique in that the cars that are brought through this port can easily feed the entire southern half of the United States by rail.

As part of the deal, tracks will be added and expanded. For years, San Diego shipped its Hondas to Northern California using tractor trailers.

By having this 80-acre facility in Richmond, Honda says it will reduce pollution levels and new local environmental policies will also be added.

"So when the ships come in, they aren't running and producing, letting that diesel fuel emissions coming into the port, and the same things with trucks, we want to have anti-idling regulations," said Richmond Mayor Gayle McGlaughlin.

"So regardless of the economy, I mean it's not a great time to be doing it, but frankly to prepare for the future we have to do it now," said Crail.

Of the jobs created, 30 percent must go to people who live in Richmond. The new facility is expected to generate $85 million to the local economy, again over 15 years.

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