Railroad Will Create 30 Jobs
R.J. Corman Railroad Group vice president Bill Henderson Monday told members of the Columbus County Intergovernmental Council night that his company is looking to create 30 new local jobs when train service is restored here by the first of the year.
“We’re going to advertise in local newspapers to fill these positions,” Henderson said.
Some of the jobs will be working on train crews and track maintenance crews and possibly some office clerks will be hired. “We want to advertise locally, and we want to employ locally. We want good people, and we know there are good people here. The number one thing someone’s got to do if they want to work for R.J. Corman, though, is pass a drug test.”
Henderson said that although the railroad will create jobs for railroad employees, most of the new jobs created in the area will come about due to new businesses and expanded existing businesses as a result of the availability of rail service.
No local people will be hired for repairs and renovation of the rail line that will be necessary to get trains rolling again, Henderson said. Corman already has its own construction company that has been in business for 40 years.
“They have real skillsets in new construction, reconstruction and bridge repair,” Henderson said.
He said that if the job was outsourced or if locals were hired for renovation and restoration, the work could take a year to 18 months to complete, but that with experienced Corman crews working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the work will be finished in three or four months.
Most of the materials required to restore the rail line will arrive by mid-September and cross-ties already have started being staged at the depot in Chadbourn. “You’re going to see an influx of our employees in this area very soon, and they’re going to be working very diligently,” he said.
Referring to his company’s trademark color, Henderson said, “Within a month, you’re going to see so many red shirts and so much red equipment in the area that you’ll almost not know what happened!”
All locomotives operating here will be brand new. The old locomotives currently in the Chadbourn rail yard still are owned by Carolina Southern Railroad owner Ken Pippin and those locomotives will be returned to Pippin.
The new locomotives that will operate out of Chadbourn naturally will be painted in the distinctive “Corman red” color.
Acutely aware of local college basketball rivalries, Henderson told the crowd,
“We’re Carolina neutral at Corman. We like the Carolina blue and we like the N.C. State red.” But, he said to laughter, “to be honest, we don’t really like Duke blue very much.”
He expects that workers will arrive in Chadbourn in the next two weeks to begin renovating the Chadbourn depot, which will be retained by the railroad, and they’ll be painting it bright red, too. The other depot in the county, Vineland Station, will be returned to 95 percent ownership by the City of Whiteville. Corman will retain five percent ownership of the Whiteville depot to stay in compliance with deed restrictions, which stipulate that the property must have a railroad use.
Henderson gave a company overview, explaining that R.J. Corman has 13 shortline rail operations in 12 states with over 1,000 miles of track with the acquisition of the railroad here. Other company operations include 15 switching operations in 11 states, aviation services and aircraft maintenance, railroad construction, equipment leasing and sales, 22 derailment divisions in 15 states, distribution centers, 10 material sales yards in eight states, a signaling company and locomotive manufacturing division. They also operate a storm emergency response team which answers calls to assist in national disasters nationwide.
“All our businesses are service-oriented,” he said, “and our vision is to be the best service provider in the railroad industry. We feel the three ingredients in that vision are safety, quality and productivity.”
Henderson was particularly proud that, as of Monday’s meeting, the company had gone 2,078 days without a work-related injury by its employees or contractors.
“For most people in the rail industry, 100 days is a big milestone,” he said, “and few companies ever hit 200 days.
We believe as a company that safety is a reflection of how you operate your business. It is a commitment we make to our employees and our customers.” He was effusive in praising the work of the Interstate Railroad Committee, which spearheaded efforts to restore rail service here over the last three years. He singled out committee co-chairs, Tabor City attorney Dennis Worley and Myrtle Beach businessman Doug Wendel, for their work, as well as Columbus County Manager Bill Clark, county Economic Developer Gary Lanier and County Attorney
Mike Stephens for their work in helping the IRC meet its goal of finding a new rail line owner to restore service here.
“The overwhelming support of the community and state officials has been wonderful,” he said. “Without their support, we would not be here tonight.”
While initially the railroad will return to service at a 10-mph speed level, he wants to see the line eventually increase rail capacities to increase that to 25-mph speeds. To do that will require “tens of millions of dollars,” he said, and the company will seek federal and state grants to achieve that end.