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From Site Selection magazine, May 2018

Shining the Spotlight on Class I Railroad Site Certification

BNSF and CSX are the only two among North America’s seven Class I railroads with certified site programs for shovel-ready sites along their network.
Image: Getty Images


It's safe to say that every railroad is shovel-ready. After all, they were the first industrial developers, looking to move product along their backbone networks from sites as close as possible to their lines covering North America like so many arteries.

All seven Class I railroads in North America have some degree of industrial development, real estate and land division, some with more options than others. Many of them work with existing utility or state-sponsored site certification programs in their territories (such as the 54-parcel Select Tennessee Certified Site program). Norfolk Southern, for instance, offers detailed specs, supply-chain analysis, industrial park planning and prospective design work for all of the 2,000 industrial sites along its network. Last year, the railroad assisted 75 companies in locating or expanding in 17 states, representing an investment of $1.1 billion, the creation of nearly 2,000 new jobs and the generation of more than 147,000 carloads annually.

Only two of the seven Class I railroads, however, have developed their own shovel-ready site certification programs. And those programs continue to grow.

Last November, BNSF announced that three new properties had been awarded the company's Certified Site designation. The sites, located in Minot, North Dakota; Avard, Oklahoma; and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, "have already been scouted by BNSF and evaluated for their shovel-readiness," said the railroad, noting that the analysis (including an evaluation of environmental and geotechnical standards, available utilities, site availability and existing and projected infrastructure) could save an end user six to nine months of construction time.

BNSF Certified Sites
Ardmore, Oklahoma
Avard, Oklahoma
Gallup, New Mexico
Great Falls, Montana
Greenville, Illinois
Los Lunas, New Mexico
Middletown, Iowa
Minot, North Dakota
Newton, Kansas
Shafter, California
Shelby, Montana
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Temple, Texas

All 13 BNSF Certified Sites are a part of BNSF's Premier Parks, Sites and Transload program, which addresses increasing demand for customer sites by developing various types of facilities across BNSF's network. That network includes a family of logistics parks such as Logistics Park Kansas City, in Edgerton, Kansas, where last year Spectrum Brands consolidated its operations from two distribution centers to one center that brought 300 additional jobs to the park. The project was part of $7.7 billion in investments by BNSF customers in 2017, expected to generate 3,500 new jobs in all.

The only other Class I shovel-ready certification program belongs to CSX, which last summer named the 3,009-acre South Alabama Mega Site in Bay Minette in Baldwin County as its 23rd CSX Select Site, a program run since 2012 in partnership with Cleveland-based Austin Consulting. To receive CSX Select Site designation, the location must meet a rigorous list of criteria, including infrastructure and utility availability, environmental reviews, appropriate zoning and entitlement, rail serviceability, proximity to highways or interstates, and other attributes.

The portfolio of Select Sites includes the 723-acre Cecil Commerce Center Mega Site in CSX's hometown of Jacksonville, Florida; the 1,551-acre Glendale Mega Site in Kentucky; the 1,354-acre Kingsboro Industrial Sites in Rocky Mount, North Carolina; the 1,175-acre White Hawk Commerce Park in Florence, South Carolina; and the 2,055-acre I-26 Mega Site in Newberry, South Carolina.

The South Alabama Mega Site is certified by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama's Advantage Site program and is the third site in the state to be designated a CSX Select Site.

"This site is strategically located between Mobile and Pensacola on CSX's main line, connecting the site to major consumer markets from the Gulf to the Midwest, and even international markets through the Port of Mobile," said Clark Robertson, vice president of business development and e-business for CSX. "Earning Select Site status means this site will be pivotal in the region's growth, as companies seize the opportunity to swiftly set up operations and leverage the efficiency of freight rail."

Adam Bruns
Editor in Chief of Site Selection magazine

Adam Bruns

Adam Bruns is editor in chief and head of publications for Site Selection, and before that has served as managing editor beginning in February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.


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