AITX celebrates expansion at ground-breaking event

Published 3:00 pm Friday, May 6, 2022

City and county officials, Brookhaven Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce ambassadors, AITX officials and construction contractors joined together Thursday to officially break ground on the American Industrial Transport, Inc., expansion in Lincoln County on Industrial Park Road.

AITX services and maintains (repairs) railroad rail cars. The company’s Bude operation located there in 1974, helping it become a Mississippi staple. Then in 2014, the company moved to a $10 million corporate investment project on Boyce Street that created 75 jobs in Brookhaven.

And now the business has officially expanded again – this time right across the street and costing $23.36 million.

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“There were many, many people who played a role to make this day a reality,” said Mayor Joe Cox to the crowd gathered. “We kept working together in order to get this project off the ground. Cooperation is key to our community’s growth and that’s why we are here today. Because of that, we are here to celebrate this occasion.

“The initial AITX investment was administered by the City of Brookhaven; this expansion investment was administered by Lincoln County [and therefore, the supervisors] due to the land being formally owned by the county. Both were handled seamlessly and that is the goal in economic development. [The entities] worked together for the benefit of the city of Brookhaven and Lincoln County.

“I want to express my appreciation to both the Board of Aldermen and the Board of Supervisors for their efforts to bring AITX here and then to celebrate their continued growth.”

Doug Falvey, president of the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors, added that “the impact of transforming this old abandoned factory into a thriving industrial site will be felt for decades and provide employment opportunities for dozens of Lincoln County families.”

John C. Ward, the former vice president of repair services at AITX, was instrumental in negotiation and construction. A 45-year AITX employee, he attended the event though he relocated back to his home state of Missouri after receiving a promotion to senior vice president of repair services. His new position has him overseeing all 17 facilities across AITX’s North American repair network.

“I lived in Mississippi for 28 years and have met so many wonderful people here; it’s a great state and this is a great community to live in,” he said. His family traveled with him, and Ward said it was meaningful to him they came to help him celebrate a long-time project now nearing its completion.

“They knew how important this project was to me. I’m going to retire pretty soon … and what a wonderful coming together when you find the perfect location to do what you’re trying to do for the next generation of workers coming along. For jobs and opportunities for people I don’t even know.

“Long after I’m gone, this project will go on, a thriving facility for jobs to come and for people to come to raise families. That’s what’s important,” he told the audience as his voice cracked with emotion.

He further said that the county’s citizens are extremely lucky to have the officials they have in both the city and the county “because they work together, which fosters long-term growth and economic stability.”

Garrick Combs, executive director of the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce and economic development, welcomed all to what he said was a wonderful addition to the county.

He said the old Keystone property where the expansion was taken place was a part of “symbols of our past,” and these new construction sites are “symbols of our future.” He said in his 20 years in economic development he’s “never seen a company come in and take over two disused properties” and make them into something new. “They had faith in our boards, in our workforce,” he said. “They had faith in Brookhaven and Lincoln County.”

The original maintenance facility in Brookhaven complemented the activities of the Bude facility, providing light maintenance activities, cleaning and ‘quick turn’ light repair capabilities geared toward expediting rail cars back into service,” a story on Y’ reported. That property opened in 2014.

AITX had chosen the expansion area because of available property and the direct service from the CN Railroad so that a full range of services could be performed, including coatings and heavy repair. The Brookhaven facility also performs wreck repair, wheel and axle repair, cleaning, interior lining and painting services, the story said.

“AITX is very pleased to be located in Lincoln County,” Ward first said when the expansion was announced. “Over the last several years, on the local level we have received tremendous support from the mayor, city aldermen, the Chamber [of Commerce] and Lincoln County Board of Supervisors.”

The Brookhaven facility is strategically located on the CN RR and services numerous customers in the Gulf Coast region, Ward explained, so it made sense for the company to take create these projects in the county.

The expansion is to be completed by next year.