The Centralia-Chehalis Chamber of Commerce celebrates the diversity of businesses in our community each month by featuring member businesses.
The history behind The Greenbrier Companies began in 1919 when the Gunderson brothers formed Wire Wheel Sales and Service as a leading steel fabricator in Portland, Oregon. Nearly 40 years later, in 1958, Gunderson received its first order for railcar underframes. They have since expanded to a global company, providing nearly 40% of all freight railcars in North America. The location in Chehalis is a repair and maintenance facility and a part of the largest refurbishment service network throughout North America. Repairs can take anywhere from 4 – 900 hours. The Chehalis location is one of seven repair sites in America that help keep rail cars running smoothly across the country.
The Chehalis site is managed by Plant Manager Todd Richardson, an Army Veteran of 32 years. Richardson started with Greenbrier nine years ago, working in L.A. and Modesto before relocating to Chehalis where he has been for six years. Richardson gave Chamber staff a tour of their facility showing where mangled wrecks were waiting for service and three-car-tall transport boxcars, grain transporters, and a menagerie of rail car parts and pieces were waiting for their turn to be repaired. Welding is one of the main repair methods, along with the use of big cranes and other large industrial equipment. Greenbrier uses certified welding processes with gauges for their work.
Richardson manages about 50 employees at the Rail Services site and is currently looking for additional employees. Finding quality employees post-COVID has been a challenge, as many businesses are struggling to find and maintain qualified staff. As he spoke in his office, there were stacks of employment flyers in different languages on his desk. Richardson mentioned he was working on increasing the diversity among his crew.
Greenbrier in Chehalis is currently getting more involved in the community. Richardson explained, “I am excited to start helping out with the area High School CTE programs.” CTE, or Career Technical Education, prepares students to be college and career-ready by providing core academic skills, employability skills and technical, job-specific skills. Greenbrier’s commitment to education helps to expand the skilled-labor workforce needed in our county.