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American Railcar looks to May date for new local operations

DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Executive director of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Garrick Combs (left), receives a construction overview of American Railcar Inc.'s new Brookhaven plant from Tom Ward, director of new business for ARI.

DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Executive director of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Garrick Combs (left), receives a construction overview of American Railcar Inc.’s new Brookhaven plant from Tom Ward, director of new business for ARI.

American Railcar Inc., which announced the expansion of operations to Brookhaven in recent months, now has an expected completion date for its local facility, according to Tom Ward, director of new business for ARI.

“The plant expansion is well on its way and we expect to be fully operational by May of 2014. That’s the target date anyway,” Ward said late last week.

Ward was quick to thank city officials, the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce and chamber executive director Garrick Combs, in particular, for expediting the approval process for ARI’s integration to Brookhaven.

“Garrick has been key in getting ARI to come to Lincoln County, as have the Board of Supervisors and Board of Aldermen,” said Ward.

The Mississippi Development Authority will be putting approximately $650,000 in Community Development Block Grant money into the ARI project, something Combs and the chamber have been instrumental in negotiating, according to Ward.

The plant in Brookhaven will partner with American Railcar’s existing plant in Bude in Franklin County.

Ward previously managed the ARI plant in Bude in Franklin County for 21 years.

The Brookhaven plant is currently under construction on Industrial Park Road, across from the Delphi plant. The new ARI plant, which be on 22 acres of land, will be constructed at the former site of the Homelite South building.

Both the Brookhaven and Bude ARI facilities will perform maintenance on railcars that deliver products on the Canadian National Railway line that extends from Chicago to New Orleans.

Ward explained the key difference between the two plants.

“The best way to describe the difference between the two plants is to use an automobile metaphor. The plant in Bude might be considered the body shop that does all of the engine and transmission repair work, the heavier work. The plant that is being constructed in Brookhaven might be considered the oil change, brake repair or tune-up shop.”

Workers at the Brookhaven plant will primarily perform maintenance duties on tank and covered hopper railcars. Tank railcars carry liquids, such as crude oil. Covered hopper railcars transport flour and sugar and other grains.

Despite the difference in maintenance, Ward suggests the two plants will have a close relationship with each other.

“The two plants will have a symbiotic relationship,” Ward said. “They will work closely with one another.”

While the plant in Bude employs approximately 100 people, Ward expects to have anywhere from 25 to 30 employees at the new facility in Lincoln County. Most of the work will be mechanical work that will necessitate the employment of welders and craftsmen, among others.

Both plants are located next to the CN railway line that runs directly through both cities, providing a convenient transit route. The proximity of the railway to the new ARI location helped convince the company to build the new plant in Brookhaven.

The ARI deal in Brookhaven represents a 7 million investment by the company.

“This will have a significant impact on the community,” Garrick Combs said at the construction sight Tuesday.