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Spotlight on Nicholasville: RJ Corman's legacy lives on in the company he built

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Posted at 3:38 PM, Sep 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-09 18:05:59-04

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — Driving around Lexington you have no doubt seen the bright red and white bridges or driven past the locomotives sitting outside Rupp Arena. You've probably wondered who RJ Corman is and why his name is in so many prominent places.

His name was Rick Corman and nearly 50 years ago, he started one of the nation's premier railroad and rail service companies right here in Nicholasville.

"He was born and raised in Jessamine County, in Nicholasville, and that's why we're here," said Ed Quinn, President and CEO of RJ Corman Railroad Group. "It started with a guy with a backhoe and a dump truck and a can-do spirit that we like to think we can drive forward on."

"There's a picture of Rick on a backhoe climbing onto a flat car and on top of a gondola car unloading rail ties and back in the 70s that was innovative in the rail space," said Quinn.

That innovation has led to a company of 1300 people in 23 states and nearly 400 of those folks are based in Nicholasville. But they all have one thing in common, Mr. Corman's innovative, say yes, spirit.

"I always like to say, if you have an issue, we're the ones you want to call," said Quinn. "We continue to show up and take bids and stuff, but when things happen, we have people here who can solve difficult problems."

The Corman company's work after Hurricane Katrina helped solidify its reputation nationally.

"We went down after Katrina and walked the track, put together a plan, and were in charge of rebuilding that track, and CSX was up and running before some of the roads were opened up," said Quinn.

But with all that national acclaim, Nicholasville is still home…

Whenever you're driving along Highway 27, you know you're in Nicholasville when you see big red RJ Corman locomotives. For me, it always puts a little smile on my face when I see them. It's a symbol of a terrific company that started right here in Nicholasville. It's a company with a long past and a great future.

Railroads link towns together, but a good corporate citizen links people together. RJ Corman sponsors and hosts innumerable charitable organizations through their amazing facilities in Nicholasville as well as donations to schools, organizations, and hospitals helping to create the RJ Corman Ambulatory Care Center.

"I know Rick was a proponent of leading a healthy lifestyle and knew the ambulatory care center was important for this area and when they were looking to build it, he wanted to help out and that's how it came about," said Quinn. "We're very proud of Nicholasville and very proud to be here in central Kentucky."

Sadly, Mr. Corman lost his long battle with multiple myeloma in 2013 at the young age of 58. However, his legacy lives on in the company he created in Nicholasville.