Barry Fromm, CEO of US Railcar Co. and Value Recovery Group (VRG), is pushing Gahanna City Council to hurry up and get on board a possible economic engine for the city by applying for a $12-million grant that would bring a railcar manufacturing facility.

Barry Fromm, CEO of US Railcar Co. and Value Recovery Group (VRG), is pushing Gahanna City Council to hurry up and get on board a possible economic engine for the city by applying for a $12-million grant that would bring a railcar manufacturing facility.

Fromm told council Oct. 24 that it’s a “no risk” proposition to the city that would serve as a conduit to apply for and administer a grant through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program.

Under the rules of the grant program — an offshoot of the $787-billion economic “stimulus package” that Congress approved in 2009 — only state and local governments may apply.

Council members said they have too much information they need to review, and they wanted to give more time to city attorney Tom Weber to study the legalities of the application that’s due by 5 p.m. Oct. 31.

A special meeting has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, at Gahanna City Hall to consider a resolution, authorizing the mayor to draft an application for National Infrastructure Investments, TIGER III Grant, with the U.S. Department of Transportation, for development and build-out of a modern passenger-railcar manufacturing facility.

If the city applies for the grant and it’s approved, the facility would be constructed off Claycraft Road and would bring 92 immediate construction jobs and 162 to 190 long-term advanced manufacturing jobs, with an annual payroll of $7.4 million, Fromm said. He said he also estimates the project would bring annual city income-tax revenues of $109,350 and an annual unadjusted property tax receipt of $243,620.

“This fits in the transportation landscape like nothing out there,” Fromm said. “We think we have a better-than 50-50 chance.”

Historically, the TIGER grants are awarded in February.

Fromm said the US Railcar business plan includes pursuing the niche market of diesel-powered multiple-unit trains (DMUs) in the North American market, where US Railcar DUM is the only Federal Railroad Administration-compliant, self-propelled passenger railcar that could and does operate on freight and passenger track.

He said 11 states have expressed interest in ordering the railcars, including Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Virginia and North Carolina.

“This is the perfect manufacturing location for this product,” Fromm said. “The beauty of our cars is that they go on existing freight tracks. Ohio is perfect because there’s such a concentration of freight lines.”

On a broader scale, Fromm said, the manufacturing facility would be a spark for cluster industry that could bring everything from research to supplies.

Council member Tim Pack said he appreciates Fromm’s passion, but Central Park is Gahanna’s best development area and cluster manufacturing has no history.

“We have a great development area geared to office and technology,” Pack said. “That seems to change the course track in a short time. If you were in one of our council seats and the roles were exchanged, what would you do?”

Fromm said light manufacturing is compatible with the area, and marketing Central Park has occurred for seven years.

“The city isn’t attracting big users,” he said.

Fromm has a history with Gahanna as one of many partners that helped transform the former Bedford landfill into a 191-acre business campus that includes the Golf Village of Central Park.

He said he has invested heavily in Gahanna, and VRG has an 18-year history of private-public partnerships, with billions of dollars in assets. VRG has contracted and partnered with state and federal credit agencies, including the Central Ohio Community Improvement Corp., Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Ohio Air Quality Development Authority, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the U.S. Department of Energy, among others.

“Our research has shown this will be supported,” Fromm said. “I’d say, ‘Thank you very much.’ I can’t believe I’m debating with you. I have the best people in the country to answer your questions. This is a long-term proposition. This is 15 acres in a 200-acre project.”

James Sisto, general counsel for US Railcar, said the city would have no liability in applying for the grant. He said the project also involves a $3-million non-federal match that would be provided by US Railcar or private financing.

Fromm said Gahanna has the option to drop the project, even if the grant is awarded.

He said he would have up to 20 letters of recommendation from high-level officials who want to support an American company.

The Ohio Railcar Group was formed in June 2009 by private investors affiliated with VRG to acquire the assets of Colorado Railcar Manufacturing and resume the production of the company’s popular diesel-powered commuter vehicles.

Jolene Molitoris, president of Ohio Railcar Group, said the application simply gives US Railcar the opportunity to compete for the funding.

“It’s a fierce competition,” she said. “To win this would be a remarkable victory for the city and US Railcar. You’re giving us a chance to compete to build in your city. That’s what we want to do.”