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Progress Rail in Patterson Praised for Community Impact


By JASON DEAL, Staff Writer
The Blackshear Times

Progress Rail Services was recognized last week as a standout among Pierce County industry. The Patterson location of the Caterpillar subsidiary hosted a luncheon Thursday in honor of its nomination as one of the state’s best industries in its class size. Local and state officials attending the event praised management and workers.

“What you do here doesn’t go unnoticed,” said state Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla). Progress Rail was featured earlier in the summer during the 2013 Manufacturing Appreciation Week Governor’s Luncheon in Atlanta. Okefenokee Technical College, along with the Pierce County Industrial Development Authority and the Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, nominated the rail company for a “best of the best” award, citing its contribution to the community and state.

“Your impact is in every county around you,” IDA Director Matt Carter told workers last week. Carter said the company’s recent donation of a locomotive to OTC planted seeds for industry and helped set groundwork to help the next generation learn the trade.

Progress Rail Plant Manager Billy Thompson accepted a plaque on the company’s behalf. After the meal, Thompson led guests on a tour of the facility, where roughly 65 people are employed. Progress Rail not only repairs train engines, but also builds them, Thompson explains. The company manufactures for both domestic and foreign companies.

Thompson, who retired from the rail business in Florida, has been with Progress Rail for about five years, the past two as plant manager. In that time, he has hired 14 employees through a relationship with OTC, including painters, welders and pipe fitters.

And more could be needed down the road. Thompson said the company is still growing and its 25-acre site has room for expansion.

Other guests attending the luncheon were Chamber board member Chris Sinclair, IDA board chairman Jim Waters and board member A.J. Strickland, County Manager Paul Christian and Commissioner Bill Cselle, Blackshear Mayor Tom Davis and city Better Hometown Manager and Economic Development Director Tommy Lowmon, Patterson Mayor George Denison and Pierce County Family Connection Coordinator Stephanie Bell. Also present were OTC’s Vice President for Economic Development, Andy Brannen, Continuing Education Director Jason Rubenbauer, electronics technology instructor Thomas Wesley and Director of Public Relations and Information, Cindy Tanner. 

Progress Rail Services Plant Manager Billy Thompson (right) accepts a manufacturer’s appreciation award from (l-r) Okefenokee Technical College’s Vice President of Economic Development Andy Brannen, electronics technology instructor Thomas Wesley, state Sen. Tyler Harper and Pierce County Industrial Development Director Matt Carter.
Progress Rail Services employees enjoyed a delicious BBQ lunch in their honor for the good work they do. The luncheon was a spinoff event from the Governor’s Manufacturing Appreciation Luncheon held in Atlanta in April. Following lunch, Plant Manager Billy Thompson lead local officials on a tour of the 25-acre manufacturing and repair facility near Patterson.

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