• Les High

Railroad tie recycling company locating here


A railroad crosstie recycling company that will eventually bring 50 new jobs to the county announced it is locating near the former Georgia-Pacific plant.

Marjorie Singley-Hall, CEO of Singley and Associates, Inc., an Atlanta-area based company, said operations could commence in as soon as two weeks. The company plans to recycle more than 1 million ties a year.

Railroad tie recycling became a growing business when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandated that used railroad ties, because of their creosote content, must be recycled or disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner. Most used ties are piled and left to rot beside railroad tracks when they have been replaced.

The new EPA ruling changes that.

“The railroads said, ‘We’ll give them to you if you’ll come and get them,’” SingleyHall said. “I thought, ‘Now there’s an opportunity.’”

Singley-Hall said more than 20 million railroad ties must be recycled nationally every year.

Her company will ship ties from roughly a four-state area to a site near the Georgia-Pacific plant by both rail and truck. There, the ties will be sorted and graded. Highgrade ties can be sold for applications like furniture. Home improvement or landscape companies will buy lower-grade ties for uses such as perimeters for gardens or flowerbeds.

For the lowest-grade ties, the company will use an industrial magnet to remove nails or other metal, then reduce the ties down to a crushed product using two large chippers.

S&A currently has a facility in Scotland County, but the Columbus County economic development team and the county commissioners were able to lure the company here.

S&A hopes to take advantage of its proximity with the hoped-for announcement that Project Black, which is still unnamed, will locate at the Georgia-Pacific site.

Singley-Hall said S&A will initially hire four employees at the Whiteville site and keep four in Laurinburg until the ties there are moved to Whiteville.

If the Project Black venture goes through, S&A will employ 50 people here who will work in shifts, potentially around the clock. S&A would eventually like to move its operation to the former Georgia-Pacific site.

“We’re currently working on another round of funding, and when that comes through, we hope to ramp up very quickly,” Singley-Hall said.

S&A will invest approximately $5 million in its Whiteville location.

S&A hopes to open as many as four collection sites in other states, but these will be managed out of Whiteville.

A partnership with Project Black would be a “win-win,” Singley-Hall said. “It will create a lot of jobs and help the environment.”

Ron Gaskins will be the operations manager. S&A will have an office in the Tabor Industrial Park.

Singley-Hall was complimentary of the efforts by the Columbus County economic development team to bring them here.

“It was a great fit,” she said. “Y’all work together so well and were so welcoming. There’s more of a business community here. You get it.

“We plan to be here for a long time,” she added.

The county commissioners and Columbus Jobs Foundation partnered to provide a $150,000 secured loan for some of the company’s start-up capital.

“They hope to be an ancillary business for Project Black, but they’re going to be a great asset even as a stand-alone company,” said Columbus Jobs Foundation Chairman Rick Edwards.

Economic Development Director Gary Lanier said that S&A “made it clear that we made them feel more welcome than any other place they visited. It’s another example of how we can be successful by working together as a team.

“We work hand-in-hand with the Columbus Jobs Foundation to bring new clients to our area,” Lanier added. “We built a relationship with S&A and introduced them to potential resources. We help in any way we can.”

Harry Foley, Economic Development Commission chairman, said he admired Singley-Hall’s willingness to come to an area she wasn’t familiar with. “I’m proud of the work our team did to get them here,” he said. “S&A has a lot of potential.”

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