Lucas Oil's CEO, Forrest Lucas, persuades Cathy S. Hale, CEO of Madison Railroad, to continue to serve as a consultant in the new railroad venture. The deal to purchase the LNA&C was announced Thursday at a press conference in the plant. (Photo by Jackie Carpenter)
Papers were signed and the handshakes began about 2:30 that afternoon at the plant in Harrison County Industrial Park.
The LNA&C Railroad has served Corydon since 1883.
Lucas Oil has its own truck line, but it needs the railroad to bring in the raw material to produce some 30 products in Corydon, including motor oil and fuel additives. A full fleet of trucks will continue to handle distribution.
Forrest Lucas said his company couldn't expect the owners to continue operating at a loss since a hefty part of their business had been lost in the last few years.
The purchase (in the seven figure range, at least $1 million), ensures that Lucas and other manufacturers in the area can still use the railroad, and it will remain available to any future venture, if needed.
"We are committed to the economic vitality of this area," said Lucas, president and CEO of Lucas Oil Products. "Our purchase of the railroad will keep our company in Corydon as well as several other companies, and it will make it possible for still additional companies to locate here that would need the service."
Lucas said when the plant located in Corydon, he had no idea he would someday own the railroad.
"It was either shut down the company or buy the railroad ... so, we bought the railroad. And it's going to help some other people, too. Some others planning to move out are now planning to stay."
The venture isn't intended to be a money-maker, Lucas said. "But we won't lose as much as the current guy."
The LNA&C short-line runs seven miles north to Corydon Junction, where it meets the Norfolk Southern Railway.
That purchase comes on the heels of Lucas Oil's pledge of $6 million a year for 20 years for the naming rights to the 63,000-seat Colts stadium under construction in Indianapolis. And, recently, construction got underway to expand the Corydon production and distribution center. The expansion will add some 30 jobs in Harrison County, where good-paying jobs have been at a premium since Tower Automotive shut down in June 2005.
Lucas Oil Products Co. has also opened a dirt track in Missouri, where the company also operates a 13,000-acre cattle ranch.
Given a year of such proportions, Lucas said there's no end to the possibilities.
"After the year we've had, I wouldn't rule out anything," he said, beaming.
Lucas comments followed questions from the Louisville and Indianapolis media about the possibility Lucas would move its headquarters to Indiana from Corona, Calif., which is also the exporting center.
Lucas said that's possible, depending on the outcome of negotiations with the state and the city of Indianapolis to use Lucas products exclusively in its vehicles. He stressed, however, that the California location, where several key people have offices, would remain vital to operations.
Back in Corydon, Lucas said if warranted, the town could see the return of the Corydon Scenic Railroad. "Nothing's impossible," he said.
But one thing's for sure.
"I don't know anything about running a railroad," Lucas confessed, urging Cathy S. Hale, CEO of Madison Railroad, to continue serving as a consultant.
"I don't think we would be here today without Cathy Hale's involvement," Lucas said.
The Lucas line will be known officially as Lucas Oil Rail Lines Inc. Employees at the LNA&C Railroad will join the rest of the staff at Lucas Oil.
Economic development director Darrell Voelker said Harrison County is fortunate that the LNA&C will be kept alive by Lucas. "The railroad is vital to our business community," he said.