• CLARA CARTRETTE

Native son is V.P. of railroad ties company


Ron Gaskins has been named vice president of a new local company that is not yet producing a product, so far as the public knows, but he is thrilled with the opportunities that lie ahead.

Marjorie Singley-Hall of Atlanta, chief executive officer of S&A Railroad Ties, LLC, announced last week that Gaskins will serve as president of the company. She said Gaskins is a good fit for the job.

“We need someone local, someone who knows the area and knows industry,” she said. Old railroad ties, other forms of treated wood such as telephone and light poles will be recycled into a product yet to be announced.

Gaskins is a native of the Guideway area and has a variety of work experience. He worked with Hayworth, a desk manufacturing company in Chadbourn, Nice Blends, a sweet potato fry plant, and he operated his own small trucking business.

“I am honored to be a part of this program,” Gaskins said. “I can’t wait to hear the whistles blow. To me, diesel engines, trucks and trains are commerce. Marjorie gave me the opportunity of a life time.”

While looking for a person to assume the vice presidency, Singley-Hall went to Columbus County Economic Development Director Gary Lanier for leads. He gave her a lot of resumes and Gaskins is the one she and the board of the new company chose.

“Ron and Gary had worked together,” she said. “We’re excited about the whole program. County commissioners, Jobs Foundation and others have been helpful.”

Gaskins added that Harry Foley, Lake Waccamaw mayor and a former staff member at Southeastern Community College, has also assisted.

It’s no secret that old railroad ties will be used to manufacture a product, but what the product or products will be has not been announced. It has been shadowed under the name of Project Black for some months, and will remain so until the company determines when everything will be revealed. However, some potential employees are now taking training classes at Southeastern Community College.

“We want to get a pool of people ready to pull from,” Singley-Hall said. “Ron has done a great job working with Southeastern Community College setting up classes. Dr. Anthony Clarke is making sure we have what we need and everybody has been very gracious and made everybody feel at home. Harry Foley, Rick Edwards, Gary Lanier, county commissioners and the Jobs Foundation have all been supportive. Mark Lennon, Beverlee Nance, Dr. Clarke, Economic Development — everybody has bent over backwards.

“R.J. Corman (railroad) is redoing the tracks and there are tracks around the business,” she added.

“There are three grades of old poles,” she said, “and this company is primarily interested in Grade 3 because there is not a lot of moisture in them.” The railroad ties are already being pulled into the company’s location off U.S. 76 near the western town limits of Fair Bluff.

“We are working hard to get up and running and vendors are coming in,” Singley-Hall said. “Ron handles that and does a great job.”

Gaskins is married to the former Janie Norris who grew up in the Tabor City area and they reside in the Guideway community. They have two sons. Brandon is a nuclear medical technician. He and wife Kendall have three children, Caroline, Ava and John Luke and they live in Aynor, S.C. Casey is in law enforcement on the Columbus County Sheriff’s Department staff. He and his wife Madison live in Whiteville.

Gaskins is the son of the Rev. Robert and Lea Rue Gaskins and is a 1974 graduate of Nakina High School. He has worked in manufacturing logistics, mostly in shipping and receiving, and plant management. He studied at Horry Georgetown Tech and at Southeastern Community College, taking job related classes.

He said when he left Penn Ventilator, Gary Lanier came in “and we’ve always hit it off,” he said.

“I’m 60 years old and I’ve been offered the job of a lifetime,” he said with a big smile on his face. “I’m humbled; this will be a flagship. I’m tickled to death. I want to be a part of this company. The Bible says ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’ My dad raised me to make a plan and stick to the plan, but be careful and cautious. I want to make sure I don’t make mistakes.”

Singley-Hall is an experienced CEO, having headed up other companies. Gaskins said she was up-front when she hired him: she wants to hire locally, you have to be community minded and do business locally.”

She is active in the Daughters of the American Revolution, now serving as regent of the Atlanta chapter, the second oldest chapter in the USA. It has 255 members, and 68 are under the age of 30.

Hall-Singley says she enjoys the DAR because she believes in what it stands for: “God, home and country are very important.”

Singley-Hall and Gaskins say they hope to be up and running within a couple of months. They expect to employ 40 to 50 people.

Project Black is expected to employ several hundred people.

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