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WGK helps clear path for new industry

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A WGK, Inc. project to help an important industry in Southwest Mississippi expand into a new city and create needed jobs has been officially announced by the governor, with work to begin soon and wrap up early next year.

On April 5, Gov. Phil Bryant and several state dignitaries moved the first shovel loads of dirt to celebrate the construction of the new Brookhaven location of American Railcar Industries, a railway car refurbishing plant expected to employ between 30 and 60 workers. The large plant will be constructed in an industrial park in northeast Brookhaven and is expected to begin operations in early 2014. It will complement the main plant in nearby Bude, which focuses on heavier repair work with approximately 100 workers.

"American Railcar Industries has been a fixture in the Southwest Mississippi business community for nearly four decades, and the company's expansion into Brookhaven is great news for the region," Bryant said.

As the City Engineer for the City of Brookhaven, WGK has been working on the project at the city's direction for more than one year, surveying proposed sites and conducting environmental assessments. ARI's site requirements were very specific in terms of needed area and proximity to a rail line.

With competition among cities for the right to host new industries higher than ever, planning the project was critical. Several challenges arose during site selection, and multiple sites were found to be unsuitable after investigation and analysis. The selected site is an approximately 23-acre area adjacent to the Canadian National Chicago-to-New Orleans main line. It is near a rail intersection with the Natchez Railway line that serves ARI in Bude, allowing both plants to work together.

"This project brought on one of those times when you have to be patient for obstacles that spring up out of nowhere, but aggressive enough to defeat those obstacles. That's how the City of Brookhaven approached it, and that's why ARI is building here," said Brookhaven City Engineer Mike McKenzie, a WGK Principal and lead engineer on the project.

Officials are hopeful the number of workers employed at the Brookhaven site will eventually grow to match the numbers at the Bude location, which began with nine employees in 1974. Brookhaven Mayor Les Bumgarner is confident the opening of the ARI plant will increase the city's visibility and attract more new industries in the future.

"A lot of industries look at where other industries are going. They go where they go," he told The Daily Leader.

ARI is putting $7 million into the site, and the Mississippi Development Authority has set aside $650,000 in a Community Development Block Grant for the city to construct a rail spur connecting the new plant to the railroad. WGK will design and manage the construction of that spur.

Forcum Lannom Contractors, LLC, will construct the ARI plant using the design-build method of project delivery.