Trucks unload and load goods for rail shipment about 2,500 times a year, for a total of 5,000 annual truck movements, from the transload facility that broke ground in Finney County in October 2017.

That’s according to Jim Orr, president of Transportation Partners & Logistics, an off-loading and distribution site for wind generation components.

The facility is the result of a partnership between TP&L and the Kansas Department of Transportation. TP&L operates a section of rail near its yard at the intersection of Jennie Barker Road and U.S. Highway 50, from which it serves the wind farm industry within a 500-mile radius of Garden City.

The company maintains about 200 acres of turbine blades, tower sections, generators and other components on site.

Lona DuVall, president and CEO of the Finney County Economic Development Corp., said development of the transload facility began as a way to improve supply chain management for area companies, whether it be importing a raw product or exporting a finished product to the marketplace.

DuVall said rail creates an opportunity to keep transportation costs down as trucking restrictions increase and freight costs go up.

“The efficiencies that are created when you send 100 cars of grain out vs. 100 truckloads of grain are staggering, as you can imagine,” DuVall said. “The transload really gives us that opportunity to help our existing businesses with what they’re doing.”

She said it also presents a significant incentive to attract other businesses to the area. With access to rail, opportunities for warehousing and distribution centers create a new industry sector for Finney County.

DuVall says the next big step will be securing export shipping container services for the community that would allow Finney County producers to get their goods out of the country as quickly and cost effectively as possible.

For now, goods intended for global export are trucked to Kansas City, where they’re loaded onto the freight network.

While the transload facility currently specializes in the transportation of wind turbine components, DuVall says that will start to change as related construction projects slow in the region.

“We want to make sure that we’re prepared to backfill the space, again whether that’s with warehousing or distribution or simply additional products that we bring in and either store for a brief period of time or a long period of time,” she said.

Orr said rail services provided through the transload facility can generate savings as long as rail mileage exceeds about 500 miles.

In addition to the loading and offloading services, the facility also provides maintenance on components in storage.

Orr said wind components still make up the bulk of shipped goods, but scrap metal is beginning to establish a larger shipping footprint at the facility.

Orr said his team continues to work closely with BSNF and local exporters to provide shipping container services. He added that TP&L is constantly looking for new business, and Garden City will be a key hub for rail freight in and out of southwest Kansas.

The facility loads and unloads cargo between rail cars and trucks on about 900 acres at the U.S. 50 Industrial Park. Garden City and Great Bend were chosen out of 111 proposals to develop transload shipping centers by the Transload Facility Site Analysis Selection Committee.

KDOT committed about $4.5 million to the estimated $14 million Garden City project. Of that, $3 million was used for rail construction and $1.5 million was used to rebuild Farmland Road. TP&L covered the remaining expenses.

Because of KDOT’s investment, DuVall said it’s important to continue demonstrating growth at the facility, and FCEDC will continue to work with KDOT to generate business for it.

“The transload facility overall has been extremely beneficial to the community,” she said. “It’s gone extremely well, and we couldn’t be happier with what we’ve been able to build there with the partnerships with the state and local governments, and certainly the stakeholders have really, really stepped up and made a great investment that our entire community benefits from.”

 

Contact Mark Minton at mminton@gctelegram.com.