Rail access interest rising

From The Columbia Daily Herald – Tim Hodge

MT. PLEASANT — The Middle Tennessee area is poised for growth, and companies increasingly are looking for sites with rail access to help meet logistical needs, economic officials said.

Maury County Chamber and Economic Alliance Economic Development Director Travis Groth said businesses are keenly interested in comprehensive international logistics solutions, of which rail service plays an integral part.

The county recently has attracted two additional foreign companies who will rely on rail service.

Groth and railroad officials spoke Wednesday during a MCCEA Lunch and Learn event at the Mt. Pleasant Grille.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult to find developable rail sites of any significant size,” Groth said. “We are fortunate to still have a few of those left. We need to do everything we can to try to market those as best as we can.”

Rail service was a key bargaining chip in Mt. Pleasant landing a new porcelain tile manufacturing facility.

UST Inc. will build an $80-million, 600,000-square-foot facility that is expected to employ 180 people when fully operational. UST is a subsidiary of Italian-based Gruppo Concorde.

CSX Industrial Development Manager Grant Chaney said industrial prospects are actively looking for sites with rail access in Middle Tennessee. CSX is constantly looking for new sites to develop to create additional offerings.

“Those sites are limited. We have a lot of activity and a lot of growth,” Chaney said.

The rail company’s largest current customers are General Motors, Home Depot and the newest customer, Samuel, Son &Co.

In October, the Canadian-based metal processor and distributor announced it will open a 105,000-square-foot facility at NorthPointe Industrial Park in Columbia. The company will make a $32.6 million investment slated to create 42 new jobs.

Maury County also employs its fair share of short line railroads, including Tennessee Southern Railroads which is owned by Patriot Rail.

TSRR operates 149 miles of rail line between Columbia, Pulaski and the Port of Florence in Alabama.

Patriot Rail Vice President Commercial Dan Freeman said the rail lines provide companies with an international link with access to ports in Canada and Mexico. Short line especially helps rural businesses in getting their products to market, he said.

Freeman anticipates additional development in the Middle Tennessee area and called TSRR one of the company’s “growth properties.”

“We believe that this area of the country is going to grow in favorable wage rates. It has a very pro-business climate,” Freeman said. “We think that Tennessee Southern is going to be one of the stars of our company as we move forward.”

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