Railroad Job Fair at Clanton Draws Big Crowd7/11/2012
CLANTON, Alabama -- When Lee Taylor of Birmingham and two friends arrived at the Clanton Recreation Center for Boatright Companies' job fair Tuesday morning, they never imagined such a large crowd vying for 50 jobs at the new railroad cross-tie plant under construction in a nearby industrial park.
"I was shocked when I saw how many people were here when we got here," said Taylor, who along with his friends said they are seeking any open positions, from driving forklifts to entry-level production positions at the plant.
More than 1,000 people attended the job fair, with some arriving at the recreation center on Alabama 145 at 3 a.m., six hours before the event started, said Hannah Black of the WilÂbanks Agency, spokeswoman for Boatright Companies.
Alexa Boatright, wife of company owner and founder Shane Boatright, said they hoped to fill at least 50 openings at the plant, slated to open in January 2013 in the Chilton County Industrial Park just off Alabama 145. She said Boatright has openings for managers and production workers, forklift operators and wheel loaders, and may fill some positions at a plant it owns in the neighboring Shelby County town of Montevallo.
Boatright Companies, a privately held conglomerate of eight companies based in Inverness that sells products and services to railroads across the country, is putting emphasis on hiring local workers, Alexa Boatright said. "We are really big on supporting the community," she said.
The Chilton County plant is being built on 100 acres adjacent to a CSX rail line, while the Montevallo plant is on a Norfolk Southern rail line, Alexa Boatright said.
"This is a perfect location for us, just an hour from Birmingham and less than an hour from Montgomery," she said.
Chilton County, known for its peach crop, had an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent in May, secondlowest in the seven-county Birmingham-Hoover metro behind Shelby County's 5.2 percent.
In a statement, Shane Boatright said his company is excited to be able to offer jobs to help folks coping with the economic downturn. "In this economy to be able to fill so many positions, at one time in one industry, is remarkable," he said.
Founded in 1989, Boatright Companies provides service and repair for short line railroads throughout the United States and internationally.
New major projects like the $96 million Birmingham Regional Intermodal Facility that Norfolk Southern is building in McCalla are not only cross-tie customers themselves, but signal an expected increasing in railroad shipping through metal containers and adding to the expansion and maintenance needs of the railroads.
According to the Railway Tie Association, production of railroad ties was up 16 percent through April of this year compared to the same period a year ago, while purchases of railroad ties are up 25 percent for the same period versus a year ago. The association also said the inventory-to-sales ratio in April stood at the lowest point in more than three years.
Boatright said he expects the plant to begin operating in the first quarter of 2013, starting out with about 50 employees. By the end of the third quarter of 2013, Boatright expects that figure to be closer to 100.