The first shipment of Subaru automobiles arrived at the Port of Richmond Monday to kick off a five-year deal that will bring $5 million in revenue to the city and create around 35 new jobs.
Subaru of America unloaded 888 Subarus from ship to shipyard Monday afternoon with the help of RichmondWORKS-trained employees. It was the first shipment of a total of nearly 40,000 vehicles that will come through the port in the next five years.
“It’s great for the image of Richmond, because we’re doing more business,” said Richmond Port Executive Director James Matzorkis. “It means revenue and jobs for a long period of time in the city.”
Representatives from Subaru, the Port of Richmond, and Auto Warehousing Company, the company contracted by Subaru to run their operations at the port, signed the deal after Richmond’s City Council voted to include Subaru in an environmental impact report issued for Honda’s port deal last year.
Honda came to the Port of Richmond in April 2010 with a 15-year contract and $6 million per year revenue for the city. To accommodate the new arrival, the city completed a $37 million project. “We did another $750,000 of minor improvements to accommodate Subaru,” Matzorkis said.
Between Honda and Subaru, the port will receive 6,000 total cars from Saturday through Tuesday.
Subaru decided to expand to a second west coast distribution center – the first is in Vancouver, Washington – and Richmond proved ideal in location and partnership.
“This was really the right fit for us,” said Larry Strug, Subaru’s national traffic manager. Cars will be shipped out from Richmond via truck and the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway throughout the southern United States.
Unlike Honda, Subaru does much of its customization of cars right at the port. This work, which includes installing navigation systems, roof racks and spoilers, requires new employees. Subaru and Auto Warehousing partnered with RichmondWORKS to fill these positions with Richmond residents.
“Auto Warehousing made a commitment to me that they would train here in Richmond by the time the Subarus came,” said City Council member Corky Booze. “The ones they couldn’t train here, they would fly to Washington (to train). More people in the City of Richmond are now employed. This is what it’s all about.”
Booze credited Matzorkis with bringing jobs to locals. Matzorkis first brought Auto Warehousing to the City Council in 2004, to work with Hyundai and Kia, which have since left the port.
Aside from the customization work, more jobs will be created for truckers, operators and longshoreman, though these jobs are not restricted to Richmond residents, said Ben Seher, Auto Warehousing’s senior vice president.
About 35 percent of Auto Warehousing’s 60 Port of Richmond employees, who work with both Honda and Subaru, are Richmond residents, according to Seher. The roughly 35 new jobs created are not strictly reserved to Richmond residents. The company originally predicted that more jobs would be filled, but Honda took a major hit in volume due to the earthquake in Japan earlier this year.
“As Honda’s volumes pick back up, our employee count will do the same,” Seher said.
“I was reading about you,” City Council member Nat Bates told Subaru officials at the welcome ceremony. “They said that a huge number of people who have Subarus come back. They come back to buy a second time, a third time. That says a lot. We’re just proud to be partners with you and look forward to expanding your business. Welcome to the City of Richmond.”