The economic news in Jackson County is not all about cutbacks and layoffs these days.
A group of developers and investors is making plans to open a new manufacturing facility. The proposed plant will build railroad cross ties using a new material made of recycled plastic and gypsum. The innovative product is getting plenty of attention from the railroad industry.
Railroad crews spent Wednesday morning replacing old wooden cross ties near Lucedale. The new replacement ties are a composite of two waste materials.
"This product is generated by the use of gypsum and plastic. It's a composite railroad cross tie. And we feel like, and we've had quotes from railroad people, that we have revolutionized the railroad tie market," Charles Moseley said.
Moseley, a former Jackson County supervisor, is now director of a new company called "PolySum," that's marketing the new product.
The new ties are stronger and last up to five times longer than wood. Mississippi Export Railroad is trying out the product.
"This railroad, I know, would go to 100 percent composite ties if they would be proved. That's just the kind of desire we had to see that kind of tie manufactured," Willie Evans with Mississippi Export said.
The man who developed the technology has already put the ties through five years of testing.
Along with longevity, a big benefit to the railroad is strength. The new ties can handle heavier rail cars.
"These ties are designed for heavy axle loads, so their compression strength is very high, about four times that of wood. It's a little less than concrete in its weight, but it's the best tie out we think," developer John Bayer said.
Those involved with this new cross tie venture hope to capture a significant share of a multi-million dollar market. In the United States alone, railroad cross ties are a $700 million industry. Some 18 million cross ties are replaced each year.
Orders for the new ties are already coming in. The next step is building a manufacturing plant. Moseley says the company's future is promising.
"We want to locate this plant here in Jackson County, Miss. We want to use our waste products to produce it. And it's going to benefit the environment, it's going to benefit the economy and the community."