Not far from the shadows of the Waveland water tower, construction is under way on the latest venture undertaken by Recycled Goods and Trucking Co. in collaboration with Dixie Chopper.
RGT, owned and operated by the father-and-son trucking tandem of Ralph and Shane Jones, is building a 150,000-square-foot Dixie Chopper Distribution Center on a 30-acre site at the northeast corner of State Roads 47 and 59.
The southwestern Montgomery County location will house the offices of RGT and provide the majority of its space for the logistical staging and distribution of Dixie Chopper lawn mowers.
RGT, which started operations in Greencastle in 1992, is the exclusive trucking firm for Dixie Chopper, which has dealerships in all 50 states and Canada. Dixie Chopper -- billed as the "World's Fastest Lawn Mower" -- builds zero-turning mowers at its Greencastle and Coatesville/Fillmore plants.
Currently, 17 semis in RGT's 24-rig fleet load and transport only Dixie Choppers. The mower manufacturing company has been leasing warehouse space in the old TechnoTrim building on Greencastle's East Side in awaiting completion of the Waveland distribution center.
"Our trucks now will be able to load and go from a true distribution center," Ralph Jones said, pointing to a dock area with six bays under construction that will eventually accommodate semis coming and going.
Construction of the Waveland facility commenced at the end of October. RGT plans to be operating out of the building by April 1. Toward that end, a crew from L & C Contractors, Bowling Green, Ind., has been busily installing siding, despite the wintry weather recently. The sheeting and roofing portion of the project should be done by Feb. 28, allowing construction efforts to move indoors.
RGT did its own site work on the project, including hauling and dumping dirt to fill in a 15-foot-deep gully in front of the new building.
"We worked evenings, weekends ... my wife and my son and anyone else I could beg to help with it," Ralph Jones said. "We're almost two years into it, and would have been done already if it hadn't been for all the rain we had."
The distribution center figures to be a $4 million investment benefiting not only RGT and Dixie Chopper, but the Town of Waveland (where RGT is the largest employer) and even the Montgomery County commissioners, who aggressively extended tax abatement on the project. The building itself represents a $2.3 million construction job with another $1.2 million in site preparation and other costs.
The Joneses also see the potential for growth, possibly even receiving and transporting goods for Dixie Chopper's various vendors. The RGT staff will likely grow as well with additional employment in such areas as warehouse personnel, security and office workers. RGT, which Ralph and Shane Jones started while operating Refuse Handling Services as the City of Greencastle's trash service and waste transfer station, has grown to 25 employees since moving to Waveland in 1994.
The RGT-Dixie Chopper relationship dates back that far as well, the Joneses said.
"We started by hauling the trash out there," Ralph Jones said of the original Dixie Chopper site just northwest of Fillmore. "We've been the logistical facility for Dixie Chopper in excess of 10 years. When they sell mowers, we haul them."
And to do so they use two-level trailers with special hydraulics designed for Dixie Chopper -- and fabricated by RGT in its garage facility in Waveland -- to haul an average of 20 mowers per load (and as many as 38 at one time). Dixie Chopper, Shane Jones points out, was the first mower manufacturer to ship and deliver its product uncrated. Mowers are driven off the semi and onto the dealer's showroom floor, foregoing the need for assembly as well as the storage and disposal of wooden crates.
In addition to all his trucking routine, Shane Jones also handles hauling the mowers -- and even the one-of-a-kind Dixie Chopper Bike motorcycle built by Orange County Choppers -- to trade shows and open houses across the country.
"We ship for Dixie Chopper all over the United States and Canada," Ralph Jones noted. "We physically ship mowers via RGT and arrange for anything sent out of the country."
And as Dixie Chopper has grown -- from its first mowers built in 1980 to more than 73,000 units now in the field -- so has RGT. Consider it keeping up by the Joneses.
"For every thousand mowers Dixie Chopper grows, we need to add another truck," the elder Jones said. "So if they experience 10 percent growth, so do we."
The Joneses believe in the relationship so much that they also have purchased 20 acres of ground off Interstate 75 in Dooly County, Georgia, for development of a future Dixie Chopper distribution center in that area of the country as well.
Once the Waveland distribution center project is complete, RGT plans to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony and an open house later this year.