TieTek LLC, which claims to be the market leader in composite railroad ties, opened a factory in Houston and began commercial production this month, increasing the company's extrusion capacity by 50 percent.
The Marshall, Texas-based company opened the 50,000-square-foot plant, which replaced a 25,000-square-foot Houston plant that was damaged by fire in April 2005.
TieTek is the only subsidiary of publicly traded holding company North American Technologies Group Inc., which is also in Marshall.
The U.S. railroad industry replaces about 20 million wood ties per year, said TieTek Chief Executive Officer Neal Kaufman. Kaufman, who is also CEO of North American Technologies, spoke in a Dec. 14 telephone interview.
The benefits of composite ties are most apparent in hot and humid parts of the country, Kaufman said. The ties provide a cost-effective alternative to wood in about 25 percent of tie replacements.
``That's somewhere between 3 million and 5 million ties, just in the U.S. market,'' Kaufman said.
Using a proprietary mix of recycled high density polyethylene, crumb rubber from used tires, fiberglass and minerals, TieTek can extrude 220,000 ties per year at its 200,000-square-foot plant in Marshall. The new Houston facility can manufacture about 100,000.
TieTek's persistence finally is paying dividends.
The company sold 5 million ties in 2005, and through June of this year, it has sold 6 million ties.
``We're right at the beginning,'' Kaufman said. ``It's an exciting time.''
Omaha, Neb.-based Union Pacific Railroad Corp., the biggest U.S. railroad operator, with more than 32,000 miles of rail line, is TieTek's largest customer.
Within the past six weeks, both New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Chicago Transit Authority have become TieTek customers.
The New York MTA ordered 11,000 ties and the CTA ordered 7,000, Kaufman said.
TieTek officials said they hope that business will lead to opportunities with other transit authorities.
The company is quick to point out the environmental benefits of its products over wood.
For instance, TieTek consumes 500 tons per week of recycled HDPE, and it uses more than 15,000 used tires. Kaufman said 1,000 trees are spared each week because of the use of composite railroad ties.