Brightline chose Siemens USA to build and maintain the first five trains, though it won't disclose how much it paid. Siemens is doing that work in Sacramento. California happens to be trying to build its own high speed rail, funded by taxpayers, with a total price tag that could top $68 billion, nearly 30 times the price of Brightline's Florida train.
The Siemens USA plant stands a few miles away from the California state Capitol, where the political climate appears increasingly antagonistic to manufacturing. That doesn't bother Michael Cahill, president of Siemens USA's rolling stock division. He said the company has been in the Golden State for 30 years.
"One of the great things about California is the positive spirit," said Cahill. "In California there is an enthusiasm here that is unmatched anywhere else in the country."
In fact, Siemens USA increased its 600,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Sacramento by 20 percent because of the Brightline contract. The locomotives they're building for Florida will run on clean diesel, and the passenger cars are made of stainless steel to make them resistant to rust.
There are also a lot of other locomotives and rail cars being built inside the Sacramento plant for other cities and states, from San Francisco to Calgary, Washington state to Illinois. "Our production is growing," said Cahill. "We've added, compared to last year, about 150,000 man hours of work in the factory."
Cahill said another advantage of remaining in California is the sun. "Up to 80 percent of the power we use is generated by solar panels."
One of the challenges, though, is the lack of skilled labor. Welders are in high demand, so Siemens has started its own training program to develop new talent.
That new talent includes 23-year-old Denise Robertson, who could be seen welding a new train car this week. Robertson used to solder metal for jewelry, but she heard about the welding training program and decided to sign up. "It opened up a whole new world for me," she said. "I learned you could actually make a pretty good career in welding."