Moves to Its New Home on Robotics Row

    Bombardier Transportation’s Rail Control Solutions (RCS) group began relocating its Americas headquarters to the Strip District from West Mifflin in April, bringing 425 jobs along with it. The RCS group will occupy about 90,000 square feet of space in the former Seagate building at One Waterfront Place, a 200,000-square-foot class A office building within the Buncher Company’s Riverfront Landing in the Strip District.

    The entire move should be completed by the end of May. About 200 other employees in the Rolling Stock Equipment group will remain at their facility in West Mifflin.

    Randy McCombs and Sam McGill of Grant Street Associates represented Bombardier in the lease acquisition. NEXT architecture was hired to renovate the new space, which features an open working environment. Franklin Interiors furnished the workplace and ITS Corporation provided all of the networking, video, and security, and the sound masking system.

    Bombardier, a global leader in rail technology, covers a wide range of rail solutions, from trains to sub-systems and signaling and full turnkey solutions, including system integration. It also designs, builds, operates, and maintains automated people mover, monorail, and metro systems for airports and cities around the world. Many of the busiest airports in the United States have chosen Bombardier for their automated transit systems, including Atlanta, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix, and Pittsburgh, as well as airports in Dubai, London, Frankfurt, and Munich.

    Ronald L. Birkelbach

    Ronald L. Birkelbach

    Ronald L. Birkelbach, head of Rail Control Solutions Americas at Bombardier, is excited about the move to the Strip District. “We look forward to our neighbors and being part of the Silicon Valley of the East,” he says. “Pittsburgh is the hub of our RCS operation in the U.S., and by moving to the Strip District, we are reaffirming our commitment to the region.”

    Headquartered in Berlin, Bombardier Transportation employs around 40,650 people, and its products and services operate in more than 60 countries. Bombardier cemented its Pittsburgh roots as part of the acquisition of Adtranz, including the former Westinghouse Transportation/AEG business interests, in 2001. Adtranz was once a part of the former Westinghouse Electric Corp. Previously known as AEG Westinghouse and then AEG Transportation, it has gone through several ownership changes and joint ventures.

    Until that point in time, Bombardier had been known primarily as a vehicle builder. The acquisition allowed the company to develop its own major source of electric traction packages and on-board train-control systems.

    “Western Pennsylvania has a long history in the rail industry, and Bombardier has played a crucial role, stemming back to our Westinghouse Transportation/Adtranz days,” says Birkelbach, who is responsible for the development and delivery of rail systems in North and South America.

    The RCS division of Bombardier develops, engineers, and installs advanced rail control and signaling systems. This includes:

    • Integrated control systems
    • Computer and relay-based interlocking systems
    • Automatic train protection and train operation systems
    • Radio-based rail control and signaling systems
    • Central control rooms
    • Wayside equipment

    Birkelbach points out that one of the advantages of being located in western Pennsylvania is because the region has been a large railroad hub for decades. “If you look around in Pennsylvania, especially in the Pittsburgh area, many of the major companies that do exactly what we do—transportation and the development of transportation systems—are located right here in Pittsburgh,” he says. “Pittsburgh is a railroad town for railroad development. It’s a tradition in the region. So many people grew up in this industry and as a result, we are able to draw on a great talent base. That’s one of the big advantages of being located here.”

    Quality of life is another draw for companies like Bombardier, Birkelbach notes. “Western Pennsylvania is a very good place to raise a family,” he says. “Housing is affordable and it features all of the modern amenities most other places around the country offer. That’s why so many people choose to remain here.”

    When Bombardier restructured some of its divisions about two years ago, the company made the decision to move the RCS headquarters somewhere closer to downtown.

    “We looked at many locations, including the North Shore and even some areas as far as Southpointe, but we ultimately decided on the Strip,” recalls Birkelbach. “However, we will still maintain our Rolling Stock Equipment facility at the Allegheny County Airport site.”

    There are many benefits to being located in the Strip District, including its vibrancy and access to the region’s top talent, according to Birkelbach. “The Strip is a high-tech area and Bombardier is a high-tech firm,” he says. “It’s also centrally located in the region and a lot of our staff is spread out across western Pennsylvania. So this now allows people who live in the North Hills to be closer to work.”

    The amenities of the Strip were another advantage, such as restaurants, shops, and public transportation. Adds Birkelbach: “There are more things to do in the city that the suburbs don’t really offer. West Mifflin and Pleasant Hills are great places, and we were there for over 50 years, but we wanted to move to another location that reflected the high-tech nature of our company. We also wanted to attract new talent and many college graduates these days tend to gravitate towards city life. We thought overall it was a good decision to be in the Strip. As a growing company, we are always looking for good talent.”

    Pittsburgh City Council member Deborah Gross, who represents District 7, which includes the Strip District, welcomes companies like Bombardier into the community. “Robotics Row, spanning the Strip and Lawrenceville, is an industry cluster for both robotics and A.I. that is remarkable for its density,” she says. “Some 30 companies are next-door neighbors to one another, with workers from competing firms standing in line together at food trucks.”

    As the Strip District evolves it welcomes thousands of new workers, but Gross says to keep in mind there are also thousands of new residents. “We will have to balance the demands of residents and employers, while we support and value the historic small wholesalers and retailers that we have treasured for decades.”

    Representatives of the Buncher Company thank Bombardier for selecting One Waterfront Place within Riverfront Landing and wish them continued success. They added that Buncher will continue its commitment to the ongoing development of Riverfront Landing with technology-driven companies combined with both multi- and single-family housing and additional office and hospitality facilities, all blended together in a harmonious environment.

    Daniel Casciato is a full-time freelance writer and social media specialist from Pittsburgh. In addition to writing for The Strip!, he writes health, legal, real estate, and technology-related articles for trade and consumer magazines and has his own copywriting business. His website is DanielCasciato.com. For more information on Bombardier, visit bombardier.com.
    Photo by Greger Erickson

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