Maker of light-rail brakes moving to Westminster

ANNAPOLIS — ANNAPOLIS -- Rockville's loss is Westminster's gain, according to an announcement from state officials yesterday: A German manufacturer, looking for a site for expansion, has decided to move about 40 miles north from Montgomery County for a better labor supply and less expensive land in Carroll County.

Knorr Brake Corp., a subsidiary of the German company Knorr-Bremse A.G. that has about 55 employees in Rockville, will invest about $12 million to set up a new plant in Westminster that ultimately will have at least 200 employees, Gov. William Donald Schaefer announced at a news conference.


Knorr manufactures the brakes used for light-rail cars, including those used in subway systems and in Maryland's planned light-rail system, a Knorr client.

The move, to be funded in part with a $9 million tax-free industrial revenue bond facilitated by the state Department of Economic and Employment Development, will allow Knorr to upgrade from a distribution operation with some assembly of brake systems to full-scale production, said Heinz Hermann Thiele, chairman of the parent company.


Knorr decided to leave Rockville because there aren't enough qualified workers in the area to meet the company's needs, said Armin Wachsmuth, president of the U.S. subsidiary. "We have had some difficulty in the Washington area in finding machinists," he said.

He also said land prices in Rockville had become prohibitive.

"One of the most important factors [in remaining in Maryland] is and was the business climate in the state," he said. "We have obtained a lot of support from state officials."

That support included the revenue bond, which the Department of Economic and Employment Development's Maryland Industrial Development Authority helped obtain; a $100,000 grant from the department's Maryland Industrial Training Program to be used for vocational education for new workers; and help from the department's International Division and from the Carroll County Economic Development Commission in finding a new location.