The Wayne County Commission’s decision to lease the former Heartland Intermodal Gateway property in Prichard, W.Va., to private railroad company R.J. Corman Railroad Group has generated considerable excitement and anticipation. The 65-acre facility, now known as the Central Appalachia Inland Port at Prichard (CAIPP), will be utilized by R.J. Corman as a car repair hub. The company plans to work on auto racks that transport automobiles from plants, a crucial aspect of the automotive industry. With the lease officially signed on October 16th, R.J. Corman is now embarking on the process of making the facility operational.
The Central Appalachia Inland Port at Prichard has already garnered attention due to its potential for contributing to the economic growth of the region. Norfolk Southern’s Kenova District serves the facility, and R.J. Corman’s car repair services at 12 other sites across the country will serve as the company’s blueprint for success. The Prichard location will initially employ a team of 14 individuals, including mechanical specialists, quality control personnel, administrators, and management.
However, R.J. Corman has much larger aspirations for the Central Appalachia Inland Port at Prichard. In addition to establishing its car repair hub, the company’s switching company plans to expand operations and increase its economic impact on the region in subsequent project phases. These future phases aim to resurrect the facility’s original purpose, which dates back to its creation in 2015.
Originally, the Heartland Intermodal Gateway was conceptualized as a truck-to-rail transfer option along a 530-mile railway stretch from the Port of Virginia in Hampton Roads to Chicago. Unfortunately, it was deemed “unsuccessful” in 2019 and subsequently put up for auction. After a relentless pursuit by local officials, the facility was eventually handed over to Wayne County in 2022.
R.J. Corman Railroad Group Vice President of Commercial Development, Michael Robinson, highlights the essential role of the Central Appalachia Inland Port at Prichard in ensuring the seamless transportation of automobiles from the manufacturing plants to the dealerships. Robinson emphasizes the significance of regular maintenance for the auto racks that are vital in this process. The Prichard location will serve as a maintenance hub, enabling cars to be delivered to dealerships without any disruptions.
Robinson expresses the hope that by establishing their mechanical work at the Prichard location, they will be able to maximize the available services and eventually expand further. He reveals that other phases will be assessed to examine the revenue-generating potential both for R.J. Corman and Wayne County. One such possibility includes storage in transit, where the railcars themselves can be used as storage facilities due to the abundance of space.
Additionally, R.J. Corman will explore the possibility of offering transloading services, which involve transferring materials from trucks to rail or vice versa. This service would specifically cater to those businesses that send out large amounts of materials but lack access to rail service. The Central Appalachia Inland Port at Prichard could potentially serve as a shuttle service for the transportation of large and heavy materials over long distances.
Intermodal possibilities, initially envisioned for the Heartland Intermodal Gateway, will continue to be evaluated as future plans for the Central Appalachia Inland Port at Prichard unfold. The yard’s original purpose was for containers to be unloaded from rail to trucks and vice versa. However, its viability as a transfer point will be scrutinized closely.
The President and CEO of R.J. Corman, Ed Quinn, expresses enthusiasm for the project, acknowledging the potential for growth and the company’s commitment to providing exceptional service to their customers. Wayne County Commission President, Jeff Maddox, expresses gratitude to all the parties involved in establishing a plan to determine the best use of the facility and selecting R.J. Corman as the operator. Maddox also highlights the potential for growth in the CAIPP facility and his excitement for its future.
The Central Appalachian Inland Port at Prichard is already being recognized as a vital regional asset. Bob Plymale, Associate Vice President of Marshall University’s Center for Business and Economic Research, commends the hard work of various stakeholders, including Governor Jim Justice’s administration, the U.S. Economic Development Administration, and the Wayne County Commission. Plymale’s center is eager to support R.J. Corman’s operations at CAIPP and identify future opportunities with regional companies.
In conclusion, the lease of the Central Appalachia Inland Port at Prichard to R.J. Corman Railroad Group marks a significant milestone in the revitalization of the facility. The company’s plans to establish a car repair hub and explore other industrial services are expected to contribute to the economic growth of Wayne County and the broader region. The collaboration between various agencies and organizations has ensured the selection of a qualified operator, and all parties involved are excited about the potential and opportunities that lie ahead for the Central Appalachia Inland Port at Prichard.