Railroad purchase brings ‘a new day’ in parish


Railroad purchase brings ‘a new day’ in parish

Wed, 07/01/2015 – 1:40pm by Blake Bell

Louisiana Senator Francis Thompson called it “a new day in Madison Parish” Wed., July 1, at the Tallulah Chamber of Commerce meeting, where it was announced that Continental Rail has purchased the railroad track running through Madison Parish.

Both Continental Rail CEO John Marino and Vice President J.D. Ventreck were on hand Wednesday to discuss some of the broad strokes of the company’s acquisition of the railroad. Ventreck said the company will relocate offices from Monroe to a site at the Madison Parish Port and will also be making future hires from the local area.

“I want to say a special thanks to (port commissioner) Terry (Murphy),” Ventreck said. “This man has worked tirelessly for you.”

After more than a year of working with Murphy on a deal with the Madison Parish Port, Ventreck said the company officially closed on the track Mon., June 29.

Ventreck said the company has a long history of success, starting with Marino’s father, who started Rail America in 1985 and grew the company to 75 railroads across the world before selling it in 2005 for $1.2 billion. The company also owned Patriot Rail, which it grew to 13 railroads in nine states before it was also sold.

Ventreck said Monday’s purchase is the company’s first acquisition as Continental Rail, one he said he feels is the first in a long line of successes.

“We’re looking for longevity,” Ventreck said. “Long term investments. This is a great opportunity.”

Ventreck said the railroad in Madison Parish presented the company with all three of the facets it looks for in investments: raw material; a labor base; and opportunities to bring in new businesses.

“We are going to send out a blast email to a lot of our customers and say, ‘We have this property in this geographic location. Do you have any interest?’” he said.

As for what the residents of Madison Parish can expect from Continental Rail, Ventreck said the company operates on three principles: customer service; taking care of employees; and getting involved in local communities.

“We are civically involved,” he said. “We get involved in the towns along our railroads. We are going to be available. You can’t operate through a town and not ever acknowledge it.”

Ventreck also said his company will eventually be hiring, creating job opportunities for locals.

“We hire for attitude and we train skills,” he said. “We always try to hire local.”

While long term plans for the railroad are still in the works, Ventreck said initial steps will include bringing portions of the track back up to federal standards.

“What we’re going to do with this railroad – what we consider a critical part – we call a kind of phase one,” he said. “We are working with inspectors. That will be the first part, raising that portion of track to what is called acceptable track.”

Ventreck said that initial phase will take approximately six-to-eight weeks and will include construction crews working throughout the day in Tallulah and Madison Parish.

Ventreck also said more detailed plans for the track, as well as Madison’ s port, will soon be released by the company.

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