During the nearly two decades that Bill Reimer worked for Burlington Northern Railroad, he gained the experience necessary to own his own short-line railroad company. Unfortunately, he had the desire but not the financial resources to purchase such a company. It wasn’t for lack of trying.
“I was very busy,” Reimer recalls. “I was working 20 hours a day. I was trying to generate the cash. Ultimately, I realized it was not a good value.”
Instead, Reimer put his expertise to work in another segment of the industry and founded R&R Contracting. “I was very familiar with track construction and repair,” Reimer says. “I also know safety.” Additionally, Reimer understands how to operate railroad equipment and possesses valuable industry insights, he says.
He combined those advantages – together with strong technical and business savvy and experience in strategic planning, business-unit development, project and product management and rail-engineering strategies – and decided to form R&R Contracting.
Simply put, Reimer believed he could provide a better product for a more reasonable price than other rail contracting companies, he says. “I decided to do railroad construction,” Reimer says.
The company, however, does not limit its services to construction. R&R Contracting also performs rail planning and design, inspection and maintenance, and emergency services. “We pretty much do anything,” Reimer says. New construction makes up 80 percent of R&R Contracting’s work while maintenance and repair, such as tie and rail replacement and switch adjustment, comprise the remaining 20 percent, he says.
Gulf Coast Boom
The company takes on projects throughout the United States, but recently has focused on the Gulf region, where it is installing railroads tracks to serve oil and chemical plants in Texas. “Texas is booming,” Reimer says. The Gulf Coast work offsets the 2015 decline in oil drilling work in the Dakotas and Canada, Reimer says. “As the markets ebb and flow, we ebb and flow,” he says. “It’s something you’re never quite ready for.” In fact, about 20 percent of the company’s projects were delayed in 2015.
Reimer believes the oil market eventually will rebound, which will be an advantage for his company. “They won’t have enough infrastructure,” he says. “They’re three years behind.”
R&R Contracting is working in 15 states and parts of Canada. The company can transport a team of workers to any site in North America within two days, Reimer says. The company also plans to take on work in Africa where railroads are needed to service copper mines. Elsewhere on the continent, the company has worked on jobs in South America.
Versatility is the key to the company’s success, Reimer says. “We’ll do any job,” he says. “As long as you’re willing to move around, you’ll find work.”
The Grand Folks, N.D.-based company was founded in 1988, and its roots are embedded within the agricultural industry. During the company’s early years, R&R Contracting developed strong ties to the industry’s customers and agricultural organizations.
The company started out performing small jobs in the agricultural market and later expanded into the energy sector, constructing transloading facilities for ethanol, propane and oil, Reimer says.
Over time, R&R Contracting acquired multiple companies throughout the United States and grew from a single crew to an organization that employs approximately 300 people.
Yet finding sufficient staff for some jobs has proven difficult, an impediment Reimer struggles to explain. “Not everyone wants to work,” he says. In some cases, R&R Contracting has been forced to recruit labor in other parts of the country and transport them by bus to the jobsite.
Reimer says he’s most pleased with the growth his company has experienced since its inception. “When I started, I wanted to make $1 million a year,” he says. “Now that amount is a typical job.”