Dec 27, 2015 at 02:19 PM CST
No. 5: Transload site expected to be a boon to economy
Editor's note: This is the sixth in a series of stories featuring The Telegram’s top 10 news stories for 2015.
In September, Garden City was selected as a future site for a transload shipping center, something that local officials believe will not only benefit the local economy, but also the national and global economies.
Following the announcement, Finney County Economic Development Corp. board Chairman Tom Walker said the Kansas Department of Transportation's selection creates tremendous growth potential for Finney County and Garden City.
“It opens this area up to major warehousing for major companies to bring all their commodities in by rail, offload them to warehouses and make distribution centers that go from here out to Oklahoma, Texas, eastern Colorado. So it really puts Garden City and western Kansas on the map,” Walker said.
The selection of Garden City as a site for a transload shipping center is The Telegram's No. 5 news story for 2015.
Transloading is the process of moving goods from one mode of transportation to another, or in this case, from truck to rail and rail to truck.
By blending the benefits of shipping by rail and local/short haul trucking, a transload facility can provide more flexible and cost-effective solutions for customers who may not have local access to freight rail service or those who need expanded warehousing.
Great Bend also was chosen to receive state funding for a similar but much smaller transload site.
Garden City and Great Bend were among seven finalists initially selected by KDOT/Kansas Turnpike Authority Transload Facility site analysis team from a total of 111 proposals submitted for consideration.
The other five finalists included Abilene, Concordia, El Dorado, Great Plains Industrial Park just south of Parsons, and Norton.
Local economic development officials have been working on the transload proposal since March, along with existing businesses such as Wind River Grain, LLC, Transportation Partners and Logistics (TP&L), and Conestoga Energy Partners, LLC, which use rail extensively and have demonstrated a cooperative nature in welcoming new businesses. TP&L will manage the logistical operations within the park.
In an interview Wednesday, DuVall said with a transload shipping center, TP&L will be able to increase the number of customers it serves.
Garden City’s transload site will be built on approximately 900 acres at the U.S. Highway 50 Industrial Park. FCEDC and the City of Garden City will develop the Garden City Distribution Park on the site of the former ConAgra meat packing plant, 900 S. Farmland Road, which has been vacant since it burned down in 2000.
In November, Garden City commissioners approved a $2.4 million purchase agreement with JBS/Swift for that plant and the 336 acres of land it sits on.
The property also comes with nearly 1,900 acre-feet of water rights, according to city documents. While it most likely will require treatment, the amount of water available is equal to nearly 25 percent of the city’s total existing resources.
The purchase will be financed through temporary notes, but long-term the city likely will need to finance the cost through a 10-year bond.
According to the prospectus, the cost to build additional rail sidings were estimated between $2.2 million and $7.14 million, depending on whether one or up to three sidings were built. An additional estimated $1 million was indicated for improvements to Mansfield Road to create a ground transportation loop.
KDOT is expected to provide the biggest chunk of funding to the site, but BNSF is acting as a private partner on the project and is expected to cover some of the costs of the needed railroad expansion, DuVall said.
DuVall said Wednesday that no public dollars have been put into the site at this time. She also said the railroad expansion will benefit Amtrak’s passenger service route, the Southwest Chief.
“If we’re able to increase commercial traffic on this line, that helps us with our case on Amtrak because increased commercial traffic requires that they keep that track nice and usable,” DuVall said.
DuVall said the site will be developed in two phases — the first one focusing on the existing site.
“So everything from Farmland Road to the bypass,” she said.
Phase two of the project will involve redevelopment of the ConAgra property, where the FCEDC and the city plan to develop the Garden City Distribution Park.
At the November FCEDC meeting, DuVall said the shipping center will provide relief to overly congested coastal ports across the country.
Trains will carry shipments from ports farther inland, she said, which should create benefits to companies that rely on ports and other means of distribution to get their products delivered.
She said the transload site also would lighten the load for the overburdened trucking industry.
“Anything that we can do to keep it on the rail longer and make that last mile of trucking a little bit more affordable is going to be a benefit to industries throughout the nation, and quite frankly, globally,” she said.
At the Dec. 7 Finney County Commission retreat, DuVall said KDOT has indicated that it will be providing some funding to some of the other five finalists mentioned above, so that muddies expectations somewhat about how much funding the Garden City site might get.
Great Bend’s site encompasses only about 18 acres, so it is a much smaller project than Garden City’s, so the hope is the bulk of state funding would be directed toward it.
DuVall said KDOT is expected to make the official announcement about funding around the end of January.