IDB mulls railroad dock

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lewisburg's Industrial Development Board heard growth numbers this week that, according to a local businessman, would lead to more jobs and economic benefits for Marshall County.

To further that plan, Matt Harris, proprietor of Brothers Fine Foods, has continued his request that the city help establish a railroad loading dock in the vicinity of the old Sanford pencil factory.

"Our board is set up to help existing businesses," IDB Chairman Eddie Wiles told Harris who proceeded to elaborate.

"We're growing very fast," Harris told the IDB during its monthly meeting in City Hall on Monday, "and we're trying to figure out how to make money doing that."

Brother's makes salsa sauce. The main ingredient is tomatoes. Harris described his growing use of freight service and how he can cut costs by getting tomatoes by train to Lewisburg instead of truck. In one scenario he could save $136,000 annually. In another, the savings would be $64,000, compared to how tomatoes are shipped here now.

"I'm just throwing that out there to let people know how much rail can save you," Harris told the IDB.

A railroad loading dock will help make his business "more healthy and therefore more profitable," he said.

Harris made a public appeal last week to businesses to look at how they could improve their bottom line by using rail freight and a loading dock. His appeal drew about 15 responses.

"Everybody thought it would be good to attract business to Lewisburg," he said.

Industries responding included Walker Die Casting, Lewisburg Printing, and Southern Logistics, Harris reported.

"We could have a business here just to load and unload," he continued, describing other opportunities and how such steps are taken in other nearby cities.

"Does the city want to run a shipping and receiving operation?" he asked rhetorically. "I don't think so."

Wiles told Harris, "You've made a good point."

Greg Lowe, the city's recently hired industrial developer, "wants to get out and reintroduce himself," Wiles said.

That's when Lowe may explain the proposal for rail freight and the need for a loading dock, Wiles said.

Lowe had already done some research, explaining options and costs to the board.

Councilman Ronald McRady had warned his fellow councilmen that a contract provided by the CSX Railroad includes sections that could result in unsustainable liability for the city. While he's for business growth, McRady wants the city protected and he suggested that Harris, Lowe and interested businessmen come to a City Hall meeting on Nov. 18 at 4 p.m. to discuss the prospects and risks.

"Let's work through this thing to see what we can do," the councilman said.