Neosho could become a major hub of freight transport, if the Crowder Global Gateway Intermodel Facility does in fact become reality.

Neosho could become a major hub of freight transport, if the Crowder Global Gateway Intermodel Facility does in fact become reality.

Surrounded by dozens of business, industry and government interests in the Hale McGinty Business Development Center, Mike Franks, CEO, Neosho Area Business & Industrial Foundation, Inc. (NABIFI), announced the proposed development of the facility in the Neosho Industrial Park on Monday afternoon.

“About 26,000 feet of rail will be constructed off the main line of the Kansas City Southern (KCS) Railroad track,” said Tom Hopper, chairman of the board, Crafton-Tull engineers, Rogers, Ark.

Hopper explained the proposed facility layout.

“It will be in a loop formation to where that you could come through, load and unload a train and put it back on the main line track to go south or north,” he said. “There will be a container unload facility, 3,000 feet long, 280 to 300 feet wide, where you’ll have fork-lifts that will come through and take the containers off of the train. (Then) set them on the trucks to deliver their product — locally here in Neosho, or Southwest Missouri, Kansas, or Northwest Arkansas.  You’ll have that container facility, you’ll also have a train-to-rail facility, where a local company can bring in a truckload of material. They will go across the dock and be loaded into rail cars to be taken to wherever their product needs to go.”

Hopper said the facility will allow getting containers off the rail cars and onto trucks, which would cross Nelson Avenue — which would be extended — to get to Howard Bush Drive and then U.S. Highway 60 without going through normal Neosho traffic.

He said Neosho is a good fit for the facility physically because of the access to the KCS main line and the land mass of about 5,000 acres allows building a facility that meets KCS specs.

“You can’t just turn a train on a dime,” Hopper said. “You’ve got to have the acreage, a flat enough piece of ground to where you can turn a train around on the track, unload it, and then get it back on the main line and deliver the product.”

Franks opened the announcement by stating that the global economy race belongs to the swift and efficient. He said U.S. distribution freight networks are the envy of the world, and the MOKAN area of Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas is the beneficiary of many of these assets.

“The U.S. has the best freight rail system in the world by a wide margin.” Franks said. “The U.S. has the best highway system in the world as well, and Missouri has more interstate highways that cross its border than any other state in the nation. The U.S. has more deep water ports than any other nation, and their vital role is poised to be expanded.”

Franks explained that about 25 million shipping containers are now moved annually across the country through ports, rail and trucks. Almost exclusively utilizing coastal ports and east/west rail systems, and freight traffic in the nation has expanded by 33 percent over the past 15 years.

“Currently, there is no intermodel facility that transfers things from rail to truck and vice-versa within 150 miles of Neosho,” he said. “Anyone that tries to ship expensive stuff that weighs a lot a long distance is at a disadvantage. They have to go to Kansas City to pick it up or to ship it out and that’s a great additional expense for some companies — millions of dollars — that puts their local facilities at risk.”

Franks continued, “Additionally, it makes it too expensive for people to start new businesses or locate businesses down here. This will give us a facility that will leverage the Kansas City Southern rail system, leverage all the Gulf ports, which will become more important as the Panama Canal expansion is completed and it will make Neosho a great place to distribute and warehouse from.”
He said expansion of the Panama Canal planned for 2015 poises the Gulf Coast and Mexican ports for significant expansion.

“The Kansas City Southern is the perfect railroad for that and it travels right through our industrial park,” he noted. “We’re the perfect town to have an intermodel facility in.”

He displayed a map showing the KCS service area, which travels from Minnesota, south to the Gulf Coast ports, and to Northern and Central Mexican ports. He said that having the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad also coming through town is advantageous.

Franks said the close proximity of the North/South truck line corridor of I-49, and the East/West corridors of I-44 and U.S. 60 would make the facility the only Midwest location to leverage the Panama Canal and Gulf Coast ports. It would create new transport options as West Coast ports become more congested, and union dominated.

“By having it in Neosho, we leverage the Foreign Trade Zone as well,” said Franks, explaining the facility would be within the newly designated 275-acre tract within the Neosho Industrial Park. “Which gives anyone that wants to have a distribution or manufacturing business substantial economic advantages to locating in Neosho. Obviously that’s what we want because we want jobs for the Neosho area. So people to locate businesses or start businesses here, this becomes a much more attractive environment.”

Franks said freight traffic coming from either the West or East coast carries excessive freight expenses if it must be moved across the country, so distribution from the interior of the middle of the United States is a major advantage.

Citing a map showing the mean population center of the United States now on the border of Laclede and Pulaski counties in South Central Missouri, he said, “In the 2020 Census, it is quite possible that Neosho or some area within a few miles of us would be the mean population center of the United States. Meaning exactly half of the population will reside east of us and exactly half of the population will reside to the west of us. So we are perfectly located not just geographically, but in terms of the distribution of our population as well.”

Franks showcased a couple of Neosho industries that would immediately benefit greatly from locating the facility here by eliminating wasteful trucking, and made an example of Jarden Consumer Solutions.
“Today, they bring their containers into Kansas City,” he said. “They then have to go up to Kansas City, pick them up and bring them down to Neosho. That’s all non-value-added expenses, and it is all waste.”

Franks said the very inefficient system makes Jarden’s Neosho facility not as efficient as it could be. He added that having the proposed facility in place would greatly reduce any future chances that the corporation would consider abandoning its Neosho holdings.

“Missouri Walnut is in the same boat, except their products are going out at this point,” said Franks. “They have to take products from Neosho to Kansas City in order to ship them out by container at that point, again a very wasteful expenditure of time and money for them as well. We can make that more efficient by having a closer intermodel facility.”

Franks said the facility would benefit every existing industry that ships or receives products from long distances, and anyone who would like to start a new business.

“It will particularly benefit obviously the trucking companies in this area, which are very large,” he said. “We have 50 trucking companies within 50 miles of Neosho, including a very vibrant local trucking industry, which includes people like Certified Express and Scott Wade’s team. But what’s it’s really going to bring to us — the biggest benefit is opportunity — to go out and attract new industries to come to Neosho based on having this great freight solution for them.”

Franks said the facility will be built for the future, with expansion built into the plan.

“Because the unification of rail and truck provides the most efficient transportation system that we can develop in the United States,” he explained.

Franks said there are still some progressions that must occur before the Crowder Global Gateway Intermodel Facility moves from dream to reality, including geo-tech drilling analysis, other engineering approvals. (Also) acquiring easements, impact assessments, also finding investor partnerships, accessing grants and acquiring loans to finance the about $25 million project.

Upon overcoming those obstacles — and Franks expressed that nothing so far suggests that they won’t — he said, “What we hope is that we’re going to put our first shovel in the ground in 2015 and it will take about 18 months to build it all out.”