Construction of a Chinese-owned rail car factory in Massachusetts won’t deter Maine officials from trying to attract a similar project to the former Loring Air Force Base, the head of the Loring Development Authority said Thursday.

The redevelopment agency is continuing to work with NORINCO, which builds rail cars and other products in China, on locating a manufacturing facility in northern Maine, said Carl W. Flora, the authority’s president and chief executive officer. But the effort has been delayed because a top company official has been unable to get a visa to come to the United States and work on the project.

The official, Sui Ping, has been trying to get the work visa since spring, Flora said. As of Thursday morning, when Sui and Flora spoke by phone, Sui was still waiting. Flora said he’s not sure what’s holding up the visa, but that the state’s congressional offices have been contacted for help.

China’s biggest rail manufacturing company, the China Railway Rolling Stock Corp., broke ground Thursday on a new plant in Springfield, Massachusetts, where the company has a $566 million contract to manufacture new cars for Boston’s subway system.

NORINCO is looking for a place to manufacture freight stock, such as box cars and tanker cars, which would not overlap with the Massachusetts plant’s market, Flora said.

NORINCO hasn’t committed to basing its U.S. plant at Loring, he said, but Flora and Sui have signed a preliminary agreement to work toward that end. Flora said he doesn’t know whether NORINCO is looking at other sites in the United States. But Loring is well-situated with good rail and port access for bringing components to the United States, he said.


“I get the sense that they’re committed to doing the project here,” Flora said.

Gov. Paul LePage met with NORINCO officials during a trade mission to China in June 2014, Flora said.

Flora wasn’t sure how much NORINCO would invest at Loring, but said it could be in the “tens of millions” and provide “hundreds” of jobs.

Sui wants to spend several months getting a sense of the market for freight rail cars, Flora said, and would need to start the process of getting government approval for the Chinese company’s designs. Once the approval process is far along, he said, the company would look to set up a manufacturing facility.

Initially, Flora said, the operation would likely be based in an existing hangar at the former air base, but the company has indicated it would eventually want to build its own facility.

Peter DelGreco, the president and chief executive officer of Maine & Co., said he often hears of visa problems when foreign companies are looking to invest in the United States.

“I know that visas are just typically challenging,” said DelGreco, whose company recruits businesses to Maine. He said there are many different visa programs and it’s important to make sure that a foreign business official applies for the proper kind to avoid being rejected on a technicality.

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