August 12, 2011

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama Department of Commerce

National Alabama Reaches Milestone

National Alabama Corp. has signed an agreement to sell nearly 100 railcars produced at its Colbert County plant in recent months.

Employees at National Alabama have been working on the railcars for several months, largely as part of a training program for the operation's nearly 120 employees.

The 95 railcars are being sold to a national railcar leasing company, according to John Stein, chief executive officer at National Alabama. He declined to release the company's name or details of the deal. The company will lease the railcars to another company.

“This is a great first step for our company and a milestone,” Stein said. “We're delighted this company has the confidence in our product. They are one of the largest lessors of railcars in the nation and they have been a pleasure to work with during this process.

“We're optimistic this is the start of more exciting news ahead. We hope to produce additional cars for this company and we're having discussions with other customers.”

The covered hopper railcars are the first to be sold from the nearly mile-long plant at Barton Riverfront Industrial Park in western Colbert County. Construction of the plant was announced in July 2007. Ownership of the plant has shifted from a Canadian company to the Retirement Systems of Alabama, which invests retirement money for state employees and teachers.

National Alabama has suffered through the Great Recession like much of corporate America. The recession was particularly tough on the railcar business, based on industry experts. They say orders for railcars are slowly growing.

While waiting on the economy to rebound, workers at National Alabama built speculative railcars in preparation of being ready to increase productivity quickly when contracts become available,

Stein said the railcars involved in the deal should be completed and delivered to the customer before the end of September. The cars are used in the grain-service industry.

“There are still some last things to be completed on the railcars, things we can only do after the customer gives us specific requirements,” Stein said. “Everything should be completed quickly, though.”

National Alabama also is preparing to fulfill another contract that involves producing a crucial part for automobile transportation railcars. The actual railcars will be assembled elsewhere, however. The railcars will be used to transport vehicles, in some cases replacing 18-wheelers.

Stein said the contract announced Thursday creates additional positive momentum for National Alabama.

He said workers at the plant could soon begin the process of building other types of railcars that also are needed in the industry.

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