A recent study released by the Reason Foundation was critical of the projected economic impact of the proposed Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee (KRM) commuter rail project would have on southeastern Wisconsin. A quick examination, however, demonstrates that the report’s Los Angeles-based author didn’t do sufficient research and has little understanding of our region or its needs.
Among other things, the foundation’s report cast doubt upon the local capacity to produce rail cars for the proposed KRM project, suggesting little local positive economic impact. It went so far as to presume that "it would be fair to say that these vehicles will be manufactured by an established supplier that does not operate a major facility in the southeastern Wisconsin area."
While there are any number of inflated numbers and exaggerations that can be found in the report, I am most qualified to provide a response to this particular misrepresentation. As chairman of Super Steel Corp. in Milwaukee, I can tell you that my company has the capabilities to perform the work and produce the rail cars right here in southeastern Wisconsin and have been engaged in discussions with transportation planners about our desire to do so for years.
Headquartered in Milwaukee for over 80 years, our company builds and refurbishes passenger rail cars with just one of our Milwaukee facilities employing about 450 workers and the capacity to hold 25 complete passenger railroad cars.
We have completed over 400 cars for Metra and we are presently finishing new cars for the South Shore Rail Line that runs between South Bend and Chicago and our work on the proposed KRM project would undoubtedly stimulate the local economy and provide jobs here in southeastern Wisconsin.
In December, the City of Milwaukee’s Community & Economic Development Committee approved a resolution to authorize a $200,000 forgivable loan from the 2008 Development Fund to support expanded production capacity for two Super Steel locations in Milwaukee. Our company continues to experience growth as regions throughout the country realize the benefits of rail transportation.
While our capabilities were left out of the findings of the Reason Foundation’s report, Super Steel is well-positioned to benefit by expanded rail service in southeastern Wisconsin if projects such as the KRM move forward. Keep this significant oversight in mind when considering the credibility of the Reason Foundation report, and assume there other local suppliers, who could also contribute to increased local area economic activity, that were “overlooked.”
Fred Luber is chairman of Super Steel Corp. in Milwaukee.