Seeing a need he could fill in the railroad industry, Jeremy Erickson started a company that assembles wheelsets for locomotives. In business for 20 years now, Erickson has taken advantage of being the only shop like his in the Midwest, opening himself up to serving railways in the Southeast and Western United States. Today, the business is growing and servicing larger and higher-class railways.
SBJ: You recently started a building expansion. What has that provided for your business?
Jeremy Erickson: We are still working on it. We haven’t done what we need to do, but we made some changes inside the facility to hold more and better equipment. It has allowed higher production. We’re able to do more in a shorter amount of time.
SBJ: You recently completed a quality control certification through the Association of American Railroads; what opportunities has that given you? You said last year that you could see an increase of about 25% in production.
Erickson: It opens us up to being legitimized in the industry. It shows that you’ve gone through the steps of the most stringent quality control process there is. It’s not government regulated; it’s basically an association of all the railroads that get together and determine standards. It opens us up to bigger customers like Class 1, 2 and 3 railroads. I would say that the 25% increase is still relevant.
SBJ: Tell me more about the railroad industry and the need you saw that led to creating this business?
Erickson: I’ve been in the industry since the mid-’90s from working on the rail carts, working on the locomotives and management with railroads. They outsourced so much of what they used to do internally because of the belief that their money is made by pulling freight. They started shedding a lot of the stuff that’s not a revenue generator like wheel shops. It was an expense to them. A lot of them have went to just buying the parts from vendors like us. There is probably less than six in the country that make just locomotive wheels like we do. I saw this was an opportunity, wheels are like a tire shop, they are going to wear out and they are going to have to change them.
SBJ: Where and how do you source your materials?
Erickson: I have one vendor for the wheels. They are made in a separate facility, and we put them together. For our wheels in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Keokuk, Iowa, the vendor we use is from Ukraine. So, we get them from all over the world. Our main requirement is that they are AAR certified. You can buy the axles brand new, but there are so many used parts that we can reuse we just haven’t had to buy new ones. We recycle almost 100% of everything here. All the metal is melted back down – nothing goes to a landfill. We have a low environmental footprint.
SBJ: What is next in store for Messiah Locomotive?
Erickson: It’s just growth. Being able to create a bigger facility to handle the equipment, to be able to spread out cause we’re tight where we’re at. The growth is going inner city transit and again going to the bigger class railroads. That’s the growth projections for the next year or two.
Adrianna Norris became a first-time business owner with the opening of Finley River Chiropractic; PaPPo’s Pizzeria & Pub launched its newest location; and Huey Magoo’s opened its second store in the Ozarks.