- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

CLINTON, Iowa (AP) - Officials celebrated the opening of a $22 million concrete rail tie plant in Clinton as workers shipped off the company’s first order to Union Pacific Railroad.

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds joined local officials and executives of German manufacturer RAIL.ONE Group on Tuesday for a ceremony, backed by a Union Pacific train that hauled away a load of concrete ties to Columbus, Neb., according to the Quad-City Times (http://bit.ly/1hSfsIn).

The company began production in Clinton in February.

“Here in the U.S.A. with our combination of expertise and innovation, we will set the standards for new technologies and for quality in the concrete tie industry,” said Jochen Riepl, RAIL.ONE’s chief executive officer.

Plant manager Larry Huinker says workers will produce up to 600,000 rail ties annually. Employment at the plant is expected to climb to 65 workers.

Union Pacific will be RAIL.ONE’s primary customer, but Riepl said the company hopes to eventually supply other rail companies.

RAIL.ONE opted to locate in Clinton because of the access to Union Pacific’s main line as well as the nearby aggregate material needed to produce the concrete ties.

“Altogether it was the perfect fit and setup for us,” Riepl said.

Riepl said most of Europe’s rail ties are made of concrete, but in the United States about 95 percent of ties now are wooden.

Union Pacific first began experimenting with RAIL.ONE’s concrete ties in 2007 in Nebraska. UP signed a contract with the company in 2013 to supply ties that will be used on its rail lines across the country.

“We see a long-term future together,” said Lynn Kelley, Union Pacific’s vice president of supply and continuous improvement.

RAIL.ONE Group received state and local incentives to build the plant, including a $774,000 loan and a $372,000 forgivable loan from the Iowa Department of Transportation and a $2 million tax increment financing rebate. The company also received $447,992 for job training.

The new plant is an important milestone for Clinton, which has established the Lincolnway Railport in an effort to attract businesses and take advantage of the UP’s adjacent main line. City officials first envisioned the development 17 years ago, said Mayor Mark Vulich.

“It’s the changing of an era,” he said. “We’ve now gone from a vision to reality.”

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Information from: Quad-City Times, http://www.qctimes.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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