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Rail car company plant could mean as many as 500 jobs for Clarksville area

Rail car company plant could mean as many as 500 jobs for Clarksville area
TrinityRail tank car. From company website, www.trinityrail.com.
By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

It’s often been said that the three most important factors for business success are location, location, location.

That might be the case for the community of Clarksville, as the city of about 1,300 residents in Butler County has recently learned that a Dallas, Texas-based company specializing in rail car renovation and manufacturing will be building a plant near the town.

Clarksville’s proximity to the Northern Iowa Railroad had much to do with the site selection.

Rail car company plant could mean as many as 500 jobs for Clarksville area“I was told that the Iowa Northern Railway has connections to five major railroads, and I was told that played a key role — that they could connect to these other major railroads,” said Clarksville Mayor Val Swinton, who noted that the plant would initially hire about 260 workers, mostly welders and painters, and the rail car company plans to add more down the line.

“They are expecting their initial hire to be about 260, but they’re hoping eventually to have as many as 500 jobs,” Swinton said.

The company TrinityRail will be adding the plant — which will be the national company’s largest — on 230 acres west of the Highway 3 ethanol plant starting in July.

“It’s a couple miles southeast of Clarksville, about halfway between Shell Rock and Clarksville, so I think both communities will probably benefit from it,” Swinton said. “It is pretty exciting, we’re very happy with it.”

Swinton said the company will break ground at the location next month, and is hoping to be ready to open in a year.

“I would say it’s going to be a major boost to our economy,” Swinton said. “We’re going to have that many more major workers this close. We’re working on different ways to provide housing.”

He added that the new jobs will likely be mean an immediate boost to the school district.

“It could benefit our schools. It’s always good when a major business comes in, because that attracts a certain number of people who will bring their children with them,” Swinton said. “We’re excited about that.”

Trinity Industries Inc. employs more than 15,000 people nationwide. According to its website, Trinity is an American industrial corporation that owns a variety of businesses which provide product and services to the industrial, energy, transportation and construction sectors.

The company has five business groups which are Rail Group, Construction Products Group, Inland Barge Group, Energy Equipment Group and Railcar Leasing & Management Services Group.

Trinity Rail Group performs minor rail car repairs and maintenance, as well as major rail car modifications and manufacturing. It owns a fleet of more than 122,000 cars, and its customers include railroads, leasing companies and shippers of products. The group also provides fleet management, maintenance and leasing services.

Services at the Clarksville facility will range from repairs and maintenance, to coatings, cleaning, inspections and testing.

“This full-service facility will expand our internal network and operational flexibility in a key geographic location,” Eric Marchetto, senior vice president and group president of TrinityRail, said in an industry press release last month.

According to Glassdoor, an online job recruiting and industry watchdog site, the typical Trinity Industries welder salary is $17 an hour, and welder salaries at Trinity Industries can range from $13 to $29. This estimate is based upon 18 Trinity Industries salary reports provided by employees. When factoring in bonuses and additional compensation, a welder at Trinity Industries can expect to make an average total pay of $37,912.

Twenty-eight of the jobs at the Clarksville location will receive Iowa incentives. Those 28 positions must pay at least $21.43 per hour, according to Trinity’s agreement with the state.

Butler County plans to award a property tax abatement as its required local match for the state awards. That agreement will offer a 90% abatement for the first five years, a 70% abatement for the next five years and a 50% abatement for years 11 through 15.

Tim Fox, executive director of the Charles City Area Development Corp., said that the nearby facility will be great news for Butler County, and could also spill over and be positive economic news for Floyd County and Charles City

“I think it’s going to have some effect, because we recruit pretty heavily in Butler County,” he said. He didn’t rule out the possibility that workers might want to reside in or near Charles City and commute to the Clarksville job site.

“That very well could be, but I know they’ve done a phenomenal job with the logistics,” Fox said. “Butler County spent a lot of money to bring that up to be competitive, so they are to be congratulated.

“I think Charles City is still going to be a more competitive labor market than rural Butler County,” he added.

Swinton pointed to other positive recent developments in Clarksville.

“I feel that this is going to be very positive for our community,” he said. “We have a Dollar General that’s going to be opening here in a couple of weeks. We have another very large store on Main Street that they’re building right now. We’re feeling very positive right now, at the moment, with all these business and retailers coming in.”

Swinton and other area representatives met with Trinity representatives in a railroad dining car, interestingly, that now has been converted into more of an office car.

“They promised to be good neighbors. They said they would contribute where they could to our local communities. They said that they were going to pay a good wage and it would be a very positive development for us,” he said.

Swinton said Butler County was selected from 75 nationwide options and then was narrowed to 10 before being chosen. He said a new facility in a small town like Clarksville somewhat turns the tables on current economic trends.

“Small communities sometimes take a back seat to the big cities,” Swinton said. “This is one of those circumstances where we’re getting very positive news for our community.”

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