Chinese giant brings jobs to Americans

BYD, the world's largest manufacturer of rechargeable batteries and electric vehicles, also has plants in China, including in Shenzhen (above).
BYD, the world's largest manufacturer of rechargeable batteries and electric vehicles, also has plants in China, including in Shenzhen (above).PHOTO: REUTERS

BYD's electric bus factory in California is boosting the local economy with jobs and expanding both its premises and production capacity

LOS ANGELES • During the lunchtime of a typical weekday at BYD Lancaster Bus Factory, a steady stream of people, mostly Caucasians and Hispanics, were lining up to order food from several food trucks outside the factory building.

"When I came here three years ago, there were only five employees," a food-truck owner called Carolina told Xinhua while busy serving tacos, burgers and coffee to her customers.

"There are hundreds of people working here now. I am having more customers and competitors."

As the world's largest manufacturer of rechargeable batteries and electric vehicles, Chinese company BYD established its factory in Lancaster, California, in May 2013.

Now, with more than 560 employees, the BYD factory has become one of the major job-supporting companies in Lancaster.

Production line supervisor Alvaro Jimenez recalled: "I was the first employee when I started with BYD. I worked alone for a week, then they hired five more people and then 20 more."

BYD's 10,219 sq m facility is undergoing an expansion to 41,435 sq m by July, with 1,000 to 1,500 more job opportunities coming along. Its yearly production capacity will increase from 350 to 1,500 vehicles.

At the announcement of the expansion, Lancaster City mayor Rex Parris said: "The local economy has already realised a significant boost, thanks to the addition of much-needed jobs through our growing partnership with BYD."

Most employees at the factory are local residents.

Mr Vern Lawson, economic development director of Lancaster City, said many people have lost their jobs since "the severe economic downturn" in recent years.

The BYD factory's job opportunities are helping people get back on their feet.

A 60-year-old worker, Mr Peter Gibson, who started working at the factory two months ago, was transporting heavy parts with his co-workers. "I have 12 children and my job here is very stable. As long as I work hard and do not make mistakes, they won't fire me," he said with satisfaction.

Mr Lawson told Xinhua: "We often talk about wealth-importing jobs, which bring new payrolls into this community.

"We have service jobs such as teaching and in areas such as newspapers, gas stations and restaurants. But they can survive only in a strong basic economy, which is based on wealth-importing companies. That's precisely what BYD is."

In the dense plants, electric buses were built from zero on the production line, where more than 400 technicians were doing assembly, plate shearing, bending, testing and painting.

At a lunch break, Mr Jose Hernandez, 29, was still working under an overhanging bus. "I am doing the final chassis check," said the technician, who used to work at a car repair shop, but wanted to learn more.

He added: "I want to become an engineer and I think electric cars are the future. That's why I chose BYD."

Yet, not all BYD employees have relevant experiences, so the company offers them a 30-day training programme.

Ms Stella Li, senior vice-president of BYD, said: "Before they come to BYD, they might have been doing cleaning, delivering or some other low-tech jobs. So for the first week, we teach them some basic knowledge, then we take another three or four weeks to train them in welding, installing or some other skills."

Build Your Dreams is what BYD stands for and what the employees believe in.

"I do not see any difference whether it is a Chinese company or an American factory. I see a future in it," Mr Jimenez said with a smile.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2017, with the headline 'Chinese giant brings jobs to Americans'. Print Edition | Subscribe