Area marketing includes ‘inland port’

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By Doug LeDuc

dleduc@kpcmedia.com

Transpoint Intermodal’s cargo transfer facility will not be opening on Fort Wayne’s southeast side for months yet, but just having it under construction is increasing the region’s attractiveness for future logistics-related business.

“We’ve started some outreach with some of the site selectors, consultants and influencers we work with,” said Alan Tio, a senior vice president with the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. “As we learn more and get closer to this being completed, we’ll be able to reach out better to these companies and consultants.”

The facility will be developed as an intermodal ramp used to unload and load international shipping containers, moving goods from rail to truck and from truck to rail.

“It’s an amenity I can’t imagine many other Midwest markets can point to,” Tio said.

Companies scouting locations for e-commerce order fulfillment centers, distribution centers or plants doing any kind of manufacturing requiring the movement of materials and semi-finished goods could benefit from the transfer facility, he said.

“We can now market that we have Fort Wayne International Airport, we have a foreign trade zone and we have an intermodal ramp, not to mention the central location in United States,” Tio said. “It’s a low-cost location with a highly regarded business climate in an eastern time zone.”

The facility is being built by Hagerman Inc. Transpoint hired GAI Consultants Inc. for its permitting and engineering. MartinRiley architects + engineers designed specific structures needed for the facility’s operation.

To help companies considering future locations for logistics projects they are planning, Greater Fort Wayne Inc. talks to companies “about having an inland port here,” said John Urbahns, executive vice president of economic development for GFW Inc.

“We’re talking about the fact that it’s a project that will be happening here,” he said. “There’s obvious interest from people that we’re going to have it.

“We see the development of the intermodal ramp as an asset to the community. From a logistics perspective, our belief is it will lead to additional opportunities.”

The cost of the facility was projected at $13.5 million when its construction began last summer on 74 acres near the northeast corner of Adams Center and Paulding roads.

The company is building the facility in Fort Wayne because it is highly dependent on trucking to get goods to Chicago rail hubs, Jorge Medina, Transpoint’s CEO, said last summer.

“Instead of using 120 or 200 trucks, we will be able to use one train to move the containers into the Chicago region, or from the Chicago region to here,” he said.

In its first phase, the facility will have a maximum capacity of handling about 150,000 containers annually. There is room at the site for expansion, and the company expects to reach its first-phase capacity in about seven years.

During its first year, the facility has a goal of handling up to 30,000 containers, and will be focused on providing consistency and reliability.

“In the long run, we will be saving 20 to 48 hours per shipment for the shippers,” Medina said.

“More important, we are going to provide the necessary capacity to move the goods. Right now, there is a driver shortage, so there’s not enough capacity to move the freight coming back and forward.”

Medina projected the facility would reduce the shipping costs of its customers by 15 percent to 20 percent, or about $150 to $300 per container.

A halt in its construction will end during the first two weeks of April. The break was needed “because of the weather, and we have some re-engineering to do with some of the infrastructure,” Duard Ballard, chief operating officer, said in a late-February interview.

Need for the additional work will push back the facility’s opening from the second quarter to the third quarter, he said. The facility was expected to employ up to 64 workers by the end of 2019.

The company has an arrangement with the regional Chicago, Fort Wayne and Eastern Railroad to get goods to and from the Chicago rail hubs. The railroad runs between Gary and Columbus, Ohio.

The Fore Transportation trucking company will be helping in the Chicago region, and Transpoint will develop a trucking base in the Fort Wayne area, most likely with local trucking companies and drivers, Medina said.

The facility will offer value-added services and include a container depot, which will make it quicker, easier and more affordable for customers to get containers.

A majority of the international freight the facility handles will be going to and from West Coast ports, but it also will be working with freight going to and from ports on the East Coast, and will be able to work with Norfolk Southern, CSX and all the different railroads.

That will give it greater independence than some intermodal facilities, Medina said.