Darlene Burns, project manager for Prime Cast in Freeport, Illiois, can see an upswing coming. Burns was instrumental in bringing Prime Cast to Freeport.
Prime Cast is a division of Americast Technologies, and their specialty is building the undercarriages for passenger railcars. After Prime Cast finishes each undercarriage, it is sent to Super Steel in Milwaukee, where the car body is mounted on it.
Until recently, Prime Cast was helping build gallery cars for the Chicago Metra system, but they have been awarded a new project, and will now work on a new generation of Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) bi-level cars for Metra. The cars are self-propelled and use alternating current instead of being pushed or pulled by a diesel locomotive. Burns also said they have several option orders that are “waiting for funding” and that Americast is now marketing the Freeport operation to manufacturers worldwide. At this time they aren’t involved in the manufacture of locomotives or freight cars, but she expects that to change because of the additional marketing. She also alluded to a “new product” that the plant will be working on in the fall.
Burns is also enthusiastic about Freeport itself. She says that she was impressed by the availability of well-trained workers in the area. “Even the building and docking facilities [at the former Thermos facility on Rt. 75] were exactly what we needed…Overhead is much lower here than in communities closer to Chicago.” Burns noted that the facility even came with a ceiling crane, a piece of equipment that they needed in place before starting production. “The community has accepted us openly,” she concluded, “and has been very helpful.”