June 21, 2012

Logistics project nets $10.9 million federal grant

A $10.9 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation to expand rail infrastructure at the Port of West Memphis will be a sizable boost to the East Arkansas city’s profile as a vital distribution hub.

Announced on June 19, the award comes from the DOT’s TIGER IV (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Discretionary Grant program. The funds will be used to jumpstart the expansion of the West Memphis Intermodal project, which will increase the industrial and bulk shipping capabilities of the area. In addition, the project will open up 2,000 acres of Greenfields for the immediate development of rail-served space.

Echoing state and national leaders, West Memphis Mayor William Johnson said the potential that the grant unlocks—from creating jobs to spurring even more development—is immeasurable.

“This will help the City of West Memphis and the Port of West Memphis in so many ways,” Johnson said. “It’s the missing link for the city to make full use of its rail and port capabilities.” Johnson also acknowledged the foresight of the city’s Pubic Facilities Board, which commissioned a master rail plan for the Intermodal project about a year ago.

Ward Wimbish, the city’s Economic Development Director, said the project makes the city an even more attractive option for new or expanding businesses looking for a site with easy access to highway, river and rail.

“It’s been said before, but this completely changes the game,” Wimbish said. “With expanded rail access, our low property taxes and utility rates, and the availability of highly trained workforce, we expect to see an increase in demand in this area.”

Specifically, the $10.9 million will strengthen current rail to allow for heavier cargo loads and extend the existing rail spur by approximately 13,500 feet. This will allow access to the Port of West Memphis by truck and conveyor and provide for a multimodal transload facility to support expanded export cargoes of bulk commodities.

Keith Ingram, Dist. 53 State Representative and State Senator-elect, said the grant will put West Memphis on a very short list of prime locations for distribution and logistics. He said the award is the result of local, state and national leaders working together for close to four years.

“The realization of this grant is due to the hard work of Ward Wimbish and his office,” Ingram said. “Ward had the vision, but I don’t think we can thank Senator Pryor enough. He shepherded this through. We owe him and his staff a tremendous debt of gratitude.”

Pryor said he was proud of the hard work of the leaders behind the project.

“The vision and hard work from the West Memphis community leaders has paid off,” Pryor said. “Expanding the shipping capabilities of the West Memphis Port is one the most promising opportunities we have to create jobs in the region. To say I’m excited about these funds is an understatement.”