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Product Development, Preservation and Patience: The Value of a Rail-Served Site

By Grant Chaney, CSX Industrial Development Manager

As someone who has worked as a local economic developer, I understand the amount of time and energy it takes to develop a site from a “green field” to a marketable industrial site ready for a prospective company. This process can take years from identification to option or purchase and then performing all of the due diligence to prepare for a prospect visit. Communities have to invest in their future and this is an important and necessary function of an economic developer’s work. Product development many times does not provide immediate success and comes with its own challenges, but the fruit of this labor is earned on announcement day.

But what if the site can be rail served, and what if you have a non-rail using prospect with interest in this site? We understand that there are forces surrounding you and pressure that exists in this environment for the creation of new jobs, investment and the need for a win. So how do you preserve this site for a rail required company?

I remember a time when a site consultant was performing an initial tour of sites and in their RFI they used the phrase “rail is preferred but not required”. What I learned then and what I know now, is this typically means the project is early in the process and the company may or may not have their logistics needs planned out. Many foreign companies may have a use for rail in our country but don’t currently use it in other locations. For this particular project, we had prepared two sites for the initial consultant-only visit: a rail served site and a non-rail site for review. In the end, the company decided they did not have a rail need and thus we focused on the non-rail served site for the company visit.  Preservation takes asking the right questions upfront and having good communication with one’s leadership on how sites will be utilized for development.

Freight rail volumes are expected to increase 44% by 2020 and our rail network infrastructure is, for the most part, fixed. Your rail served site is going to increase in value in the coming years, patience does pay off and opportunities will come if you persevere and maintain the site for future rail customers. It may even be a site that would meet the requirements for our CSX Select Site program, so please contact your CSX Industrial Development Manager about this opportunity.