Although it’s been nearly a half-century since Los Angeles dismantled its streetcar service, a San Fernando Valley manufacturer of hybrid and electric trolleys is gearing up for the vehicle’s anticipated comeback.

TIG/m LLC designs and manufactures customized, vintage-style streetcars at its Chatsworth plant. The company’s most famous car is its first one, which was delivered to the Grove shopping center, where it carries 700,000 patrons annually. TIG/m is now building cars for developments in Indio; San Antonio; Mexico; and, just announced last week, Dubai, where a project needs six cars.

But President Brad Read said he sees the biggest potential in Los Angeles and other cities that are considering bringing streetcars back to their downtowns. Read said if such projects come through, the company could hire 300 more people, up from its current staff of 25.

“Thus far we have been focused on developing streetcars for mixed-use and retail developments, but we now want to go after selling streetcars to municipalities,” he said.

Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar has proposed a Bringing Back Broadway plan, which aims to revitalize the area into a bustling retail and entertainment district. A key part of the $100 million plan is the reinstitution of a streetcar service along a three-mile route that would stretch from L.A. Live and the Los Angeles Convention Center to the Music Center.

In order to demonstrate the vehicles’ capabilities, Read has set up a trolley at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Red Line rail yard downtown. The custom-made trolleys range in price from $1 million to $2 million, run primarily on batteries, and can be enclosed or made into double-deckers.

“I think the golden age of the electric trolley system in the U.S. could repeat itself as people start to realize they don’t want to just rely on cars and buses using fossil fuels,” he said.

Union Ties to Tankers?

Defense industry analyst Loren Thompson has called attention to a potential conflict of interest involving unions that could further mar the U.S. Air Force’s repeated unsuccessful efforts to replace its refueling air tankers.

Century City-based Northrop Grumman Corp. and its European partner, Airbus parent EADS, are competing against Boeing Co. for the potential $40 billion pact for 179 tankers.

In a Nov. 6 blog posting, Thompson said employees of the Government Accountability Office, which rules on federal contract protests, were recently organized by the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers union. That union is part of the AFL-CIO, which represents 85,000 white-collar workers, including some at Boeing.

“So if Northrop loses the next round of competition and lodges a protest, couldn’t it allege that GAO is conflicted and thus not a suitable arbiter of the protest?” wrote Thompson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Va., think tank.

However, GAO spokesman Chuck Young told Reuters last week that the agency would have no potential conflict of interest because all bid protests are handled by the agency’s lawyers, who are not union members.

In the past, the union issued an 11-page pamphlet supporting Boeing’s bid and its protest of the last tanker contract, which was initially awarded to Northrop in 2008 before being overturned, leading to the new round of bids.

Grant Fuels Biodiesel

Vernon biodiesel manufacturer Vert Biodiesel is planning to open a two-acre facility in Santa Fe Springs within the next six months where it will blend fuels for distribution. A handful of production workers are expected to be hired.

The company recently got some financial fuel from the U.S. Department of Energy, which allocated up to $729,761 for the Santa Fe Spring facility. The grant was given under the stimulus-funded Clean Cities program, which seeks to reduce petroleum consumption.

“It’s our first federal grant and is a big step for us as a startup,” said Managing Partner Erik Zimmerman, who founded Vert two years ago.

The company specializes in distributing recycled biodiesel, which comes from sources usually considered waste, such as used restaurant oil. The new facility will blend the recycled biodiesel with a smaller proportion of regular diesel.

Ducommun Changes

Ducommun Inc., a Carson aerospace and defense firm, named Anthony J. Reardon chief executive effective Jan. 1. Reardon is president and chief operating officer, but now replaces retiring Chief Executive Joseph C. Berenato, who will remain as chairman. Ducommun’s board also elected Dean M. Flatt to the board effective immediately, bringing its number to eight. Flatt recently retired from Honeywell International, where he was president of the aerospace project division.

Staff reporter Francisco Vara-Orta can be reached fvara-orta@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 241.

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