By Brenden West Assistant Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON – “It’s about to get a little German here,” said Jochen Riepl, prompting laughter followed by cheers and applause.
The RAIL.ONE CEO touched down in Clinton from his Neumarkt, Germany headquarters last week, overseeing his newest plant’s start of production. On Tuesday, Riepl addressed 165 dignitaries in a white tent beside the facility. They included his countrymen and state leaders like Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Economic Development Authority director Debi Durham. And there were Clinton community members that Riepl said “made it happen.”
“I want to welcome you all here in this most modern concrete tie plant of the world,” he said. “It’s our newest one, and this is the most modern one you can see, placed here in Clinton, Iowa, in the Midwest of the United States.”
Construction, Riepl added, moved along very quickly, with an ambitious goal for completion.
“We went through a lot of road blocks,” he said. “But we went around and got through it. We did it in 12 months.”
Clinton had the space. RAIL.ONE had a need. One year later, Riepl, Reynolds and others had a ribbon cutting.
All of this signified to Clinton Mayor Mark Vulich that the Lincolnway Industrial Railpark has officially begun. The first business opening of the industrial zone – located between his city and Low Moor off U.S. 30 – is the realization of a dream two decades in the making.
“Today is a monumental moment in the history of Clinton,” Vulich said during his turn for a speech. He talked about how years ago, a group of Clinton leaders stood in a corn field and dreamed of possibilities. “They envisioned a railpark in this area. As far as I’m concerned, they were visionaries for their time. They looked at the corn field and saw something that was possible.
“Seventeen years later this railpark has come to fruition. Today is our new era… Today, as far as I’m concerned, our railpark is now open for business.”
For Reipl, Clinton will “get German” among a number of other things. He spoke to how the city has landed the company’s first North American branch, one he called “the most modern rail tie facility in the world.” Clinton’s also getting jobs – over 65 of them.
Important to Reynolds was the $22 million investment in an Iowa community. She joined others on the welcoming wagon by pointing out how a company like RAIL.ONE fittingly chose Clinton.
“Given the heritage of our state, Clinton’s rail history, I find it fitting that RAIL.ONE has chosen this community as its first in the country,” Reynolds said, adding: “Iowa is committed to economic growth.”
Riepl showed Reynolds the facility with workers stationed to demonstrate operations for her. The business has already started manufacturing concrete railroad ties – supports that hold tracks in place. After welcoming speeches, the audience watched the first shipment of ties leave the facility by rail.
Reynolds said the tour impressed her.
The city of Clinton and the Clinton Regional Development Corporation both own acreage within the railpark. CRDC president Mike Kirchhoff said RAIL.ONE is the first of hopefully many job-creating companies that will reside there. While Nevada Railroad Materials continues development nearby, he confirmed Tuesday that a third railpark deal is near finalization.
“We’ve got a number of projects interested in Clinton,” Kirchhoff said. “Four of them are interested in Clinton and one of them is very close. There’s momentum, and the fact that we brought attention (to the state) is exciting.”
As for RAIL.ONE, Riepl said the Germans feel “very at home.”