FREMONT — The federal government said Monday that it will provide $19 million to help workers hit by the NUMMI closing — and an East Bay congressman says he is pushing for rail vehicles to be built at the shuttered auto factory.
Standing behind a sign that proclaimed a "new day for NUMMI workers," U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said the grant, for both NUMMI workers and those laid off from suppliers to the plant, would help provide retraining for workers who might seek jobs in fledgling cleantech industries.
In many cases, workers at the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant have skills that could be brought to an array of emerging industries, Solis said.
"This area could be a hub of new technologies," Solis said during her appearance in Fremont, which included a visit to a former union hall that has been turned into a re-employment center for NUMMI workers.
About 4,700 workers lost their jobs when NUMMI closed its doors April 1. An additional 2,000 jobs were cut at NUMMI suppliers in the East Bay and Central Valley.
Recently, Tesla Motors and Toyota Motor said they would team up to produce electric vehicles at the NUMMI factory.
Tesla said it would buy the NUMMI plant for $42 million. Toyota said it would invest $50 million in Tesla, maker of electric vehicles. The promises have yet to become a formal agreement, though.
A congressman from the East Bay, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, said it's possible the NUMMI factory could be used for more than electric vehicles. After all, the auto factory measures about 5.4 million square feet.
"There's a lot of room there," Garamendi said during an interview Monday in Fremont. "You could have high-speed rail, light rail, electric motors being built there."
Garamendi said he recently spoke with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about the possibility of constructing high-speed rail vehicles or other rail vehicles in the unused portions of the cavernous NUMMI factory.
The transportation secretary said he would look into the possibility, according to Garamendi, who also believes other factories around the Bay Area — including ones that are operating at robust levels — could be used to build components that could be used in green industries.
Garamendi also is planning legislation to encourage companies to manufacture their products in the United States. He wants that commitment to domestic manufacturing in cases when companies receive federal loan guarantees.
"If it's American taxpayers' money, it should be built in America," Garamendi said. "Not 20 percent — 100 percent."
Palo Alto-based Tesla, parts of which are made from many countries, and Fremont-based Solyndra are among the noteworthy local recipients of federal loan guarantees during the past 10 months.
About 2,000 former NUMMI workers have been seen at the re-employment center in Fremont, said Honorata Lindsay, a management information systems specialist with the office.
About 100 have been placed with new jobs so far, she said.
"Many of the hardworking Californians impacted by layoffs at NUMMI now will be able to receive training and employment services that allow them to re-enter the work force in good jobs," Solis said.
Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477.