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Originally published Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 11:58 AM

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Spanish train maker picks Milwaukee for plant site

A Spanish train company that agreed to build an assembly plant in Wisconsin said Tuesday it has chosen a site in Milwaukee, creating about 125 new jobs in the city.

Associated Press Writer

MILWAUKEE —

A Spanish train company that agreed to build an assembly plant in Wisconsin said Tuesday it has chosen a site in Milwaukee, creating about 125 new jobs in the city.

Talgo Inc. chose Milwaukee over other options in Appleton, Janesville and Racine because of the city's access to a harbor and local rail station, the availability of skilled workers and the reasonable cost of living, said Antonio Perez, the company's chief executive.

The new facility will be on the site of a former Tower Automotive plant. Perez said it has enough room to accommodate train sets of 14 rail cars and also allows room for expansion as more orders roll in.

"We don't intend to come here for two years and then get out," Perez said. "We plan to be here for a long time."

The deal will also bring an estimated 450 jobs to Midwest companies that will provide supplies and related services, Perez said.

Talgo had said it would build its U.S. assembly plant in the first state to order trains. Wisconsin won after Gov. Jim Doyle said last July the state would buy two trains for a total of $47 million. Oregon has since ordered two trains, which will also be made in Milwaukee, Doyle said Tuesday.

Wisconsin's two trains are for Amtrak's Milwaukee-to-Chicago line. The state also has an option for two additional trains to serve a proposed Milwaukee-to-Madison route.

State lawmakers last month approved spending $810 million in federal stimulus funding on the Milwaukee-Madison line over GOP objections that it would cost too much and be underused. The budget committee also voted unanimously to accept another $12 million in federal stimulus money to make improvements to the Milwaukee-Chicago line.

Each Talgo train will seat 420 people, up from the current 350-per-train capacity. Initially, the trains will go no faster than 79 mph, which is the current limit for most Amtrak trains. Once safety upgrades are made along the lines and new locomotives are acquired in 2015, the trains could go as fast as 110 mph.

As more states pursue their own high-speed rail lines, it's likely their train orders will also be filled in Milwaukee, Doyle said.

"Wisconsin is in the leadership of what will be the Midwest high-speed network," the Democratic governor said, adding, "As we develop the expertise and the capacity, this is where trains are going to be built."

Talgo said it would begin manufacturing Wisconsin's two trains by November and finish by next July. Perez acknowledged that was an aggressive deadline but said most of the preliminary work, including identifying American suppliers, is complete.

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Talgo's parent company, Madrid-based Patentes Talgo SL, builds high-speed trains used in countries including Spain, Germany, Kazakhstan and Bosnia. Talgo runs five trains in the state of Washington with a headquarters and maintenance facility in Seattle. Doyle visited Spain last winter to meet with company officials and rode their trains around the country.

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On the Net:

Talgo: http://www.talgoamerica.com/

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Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.

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