Since December, the P&L president learned the company’s third attempt to land a U.S. Department of Transportation grant was successful. The DOT awarded $11.5 million to replace the Muldraugh Bridges in central Kentucky, vital bridges for the company since they connect Fort Knox, Paducah and Louisville.
Garrett learned earlier this month he got to talk a little bit less about a Paducah-McCracken County merger, at least for a few months.
As chairman of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce, Garrett was heavily involved in a 21-member merger committee that finished the bulk of years worth of work in early May when the matter was voted onto the November ballot to let voters take a crack at it.
And then there’s this new $4.2 million headquarters downtown at 200 Clark St.
“It’s so nice because we’ve never had a conference room this size before,” Garrett said inside a large, wood-trimmed room. The room smelled of leather and plastic as padded black office chairs sat in the unfurnished space with their protective wrappings still snug.
The tinted, two-story building sits diagonally stretched between Marine Way and Third Street, not quite facing Clark Street, even though that’s its address street.
About that: Garrett called Clark Street an obvious choice when the options were that or Marine Way being on a railroad company’s address line.
Modern in design and environmental controls, the new P&L Railway headquarters is a welcome addition to a revitalized portion of downtown.
“We certainly would like to see more development down here,” Garrett said.
River shipping company Crounse Corp. opened its headquarters on Marine Way in 2008. It was the state’s first LEED-certified gold building west of Louisville upon opening, and it followed strict guildines to gain the LEED label.
Garrett said the LEED certification could have added 15 percent to P&L’s building cost so the company decided to pick and choose what it wanted to include from the LEED checklist.
Items that made it were a geothermal heating and cooling system, energy-efficient windows and sustainable interior finishes.
Tall, expansive windows are a theme throughout the building.
After walking through the glass double doors at the front entrance, black and white tile form the triangle in the company’s logo in the middle of the lobby. The administrative offices to the left practically have windows for walls. An interior customer service department doesn’t have a wall against the building’s exterior, but the six or so employees all have a view of Marine Way through three panes of glass. The glass and wood trim are sound resistant, meaning workers can see freely but aren’t disrupted by noise.
When completely moved in, about 60 employees will fill the building. About 48 of those were employees in P&L’s crowded, century-old building at 1500 Kentucky Ave. Another 14 will join them from a dispatching crew in Paducah’s South Yard, while some were hired as trackmen, trainmen and machinists to maintain its 280 miles of track.
Garrett said workers in the new headquarters will also perform customer service and dispatching services for P&L’s affiliate railroads: Evansville Western Railway, Inc. and Appalachian and Ohio Railroad, Inc.
Consolidation and upgrading to the company’s technology and computer services are often benefits of the new building, said Bruce Huyck, assistant vice president of information systems.
Most are surprised at how technology-driven railroads have become, Huyck said. P&L has developed its own software and communications systems to interact with employees on the track.
Computer servers that used to swallow entire rooms now fit comfortably in black racks, cooled in their separate rooms in the IT department.
Keeping the rail company in Paducah was a coup for the community.
P&L’s parent firm, Four Rivers Transportation, was courted by other cities to move from Paducah, but state and local tax incentives were offered for land near the Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center.
The incentives amounted to about $400,000 with $114,000 coming as sales tax credits for construction materials and building fixtures, according to the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority.
Some of those building fixtures are still on the way, however. A wooden block embedded into a wall sits vacant just beyond the main lobby.
Garrett said small model trains representing P&L and its affiliate railroads will eventually occupy the space.
And on a day in mid-May, Garrett stood before that wall doing what he and his company will do after all the furnishings and employees are settled in: He planned for the future in the new headquarters.
“We’ll have small model trains here maybe, and maybe they’ll be able to go back and forth, something like that,” Garrett said.
Call Adam Shull, Journal editor, at 270-575-8653 or follow @adamshull on Twitter.