Waycross-Ware Co. railroad expansion creates job opportunities and industry growth



WAYCROSS, Ga. (WALB) - CSX Railroad lines run through the middle of Waycross-Ware County all the way to the ports of Savannah nearly two hours away. In addition to that, the three major highways are an hour and a half away from Jacksonville, Florida, and 45 minutes away from Brunswick.

As the logistics hub of the South, it makes the perfect location for CSX to expand its operations with an emphasis on its workforce.

“CSX Railway has the largest processing yard in the United States, so that is a huge attraction for us when it comes to bringing in industry,” Jason Rubenbauer, president/CEO of the Waycross and Ware County Development Authority, said.

The development authority says they have nearly 300 acres of land for industries that are looking for rail access and connections.

“With the railway expansion, people are going to start seeing the things that they had dreamed of come to pass because those persons with resources — physical and some natural used as well as financial resources,” Waycross Mayor Michael-Angelo James said.

In a recent promotional video, Rashard Howard, director of business development for CSX, applauded the community for their access to the major points along the manufacturing and shipping routes in addition to the access to potential workforce and opportunities for growth.

“The city of Waycross - Ware County you have an organization and community leaders that are open to doing business and want your business. They have incentives to make you feel welcomed and like your business is valued,” Howard said.

The questions about where the workforce is coming from, if they are qualified, and what talents or skillsets they are bringing can be a determining factor for industries to settle.

“We have a wide ray of talent within a 45-minute drive time, so we have plenty workforce available so industries can come locate and get off the ground very quickly and successfully,” Rubenbauer said.

Waycross is home to Coastal Pines Technical College and South Georgia State College, which are both huge partners of the development authority when it comes to training and coaching the upcoming workforce.

“Every two years we do a community needs assessment where we survey businesses and industries with their assistance to identify what jobs are available now and what industries are looking for in the next 5 years. We will develop programs that address the needs,” Lonnie Roberts, president of Coastal Pines Technical College, said.

“For example our mechanical engineering technology program, we allow them to go out into the community for internships and build a relationship to experience day-to-day operations which gives them the opportunity to stay in the community and know there are jobs waiting on them,” said Dr. Greg Tanner, interim president of South Georgia State College.

These educational partners meet with business development, government and community partners to discuss the necessary skills required to fill the workforce in Waycross, in addition to how the K-12 students can learn about potential opportunities to further their education and skill set.

“This helps and allows for communities to grow. I think when you bring talent in they need to have those soft skills to deal with the individuals they will come in contact with so having that knowledge and educational training is going to be very helpful to us,” James said.