Honda revs up city’s economic engine

Richmond City Councilmembers (L to R) Ludmyrna Lopez, Nat Bates, and Tom Butt look on as councilmember Jim Rogers speaks at the grand opening of Honda’s new port facility. (Photos by Christina Lopez)

Richmond City Councilmembers (L to R) Ludmyrna Lopez, Nat Bates, and Tom Butt look on as councilmember Jim Rogers speaks at the grand opening of Honda’s new port facility. (Photos by Christina Lopez)

Richmond officials celebrated the return of American Honda Motor Company to the city’s port on Tuesday.

Last April, the company opened its third West Coast port facility in the city’s historic shipyard district. Now that the operation is fully up and running, Honda will bring more than 145,000 cars per year into Northern California by way of the Port of Richmond. Over the next 15 years, the project is expected to generate $60 to $120 million for the city, port officials say. Already, it has created 200 blue-collar union jobs.

More than 200 people attended Honda’s grand opening.

“Six months ago, this was an empty building with a big piece of asphalt,” said Dennis Manns, Honda’s assistant vice president.

At a luncheon at the Point Potrero Marine Terminal, Honda representatives and City Council members Tom Butt, Nat Bates, Maria Viramontes, Ludmyrna Lopez and Jim Rogers praised the project.

“I am very excited we are finally here,” said Councilmember Ludmyrna Lopez. “I’m so glad we’re able to bring this much needed economic vitality to Richmond.”

The Honda project also builds on the city’s green reputation.

Before the Richmond facility opened, Honda vehicles built in Mexico and Canada came to Northern California through the ports of San Diego or Portland, Ore. According to Honda’s website, shipping these vehicles through Richmond will eliminate the need for more than 1.5 million miles of truck travel each year.

“We reduce the environmental impact by 4,500 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually by eliminating truck traffic,” said Honda spokesperson Marcos Frommer.

A truck hauling new Hondas arrives at the Port of Richmond.

Honda used to import cars through Richmond, Councilmember Bates said. But in the 1980s, it moved its shipping operation to Long Beach. In 2006, the Richmond City Council approved a proposal to bring the Japanese automaker back. But bringing the project to fruition took several years because of the need to research the environmental impact, extend the railroad tracks and retrofit the facility.

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