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CERTIFIED SITES
From Site Selection magazine, March 2024
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Class I Railroads Continue to Roll Out Sites and Results

CERTIFIED SITES
A multi-level Norfolk Southern train crosses the Cumberland River Bridge in Burnside, Kentucky.
Archive photo by Matt Jones courtesy of Norfolk Southern

by ADAM BRUNS
I

f railroads are the industrial circulatory system, ready-to-develop locations along their routes are the vital cells of the national economy. The past year has seen those cells multiplied by Class I railroad certified site programs. A brief tour:

BNSF Railway Company in late 2023 added three new locations in Fort Madison, Iowa; Glenwood, Iowa; and De Soto, Kansas (home of Panasonic’s forthcoming $4 billion EV battery plant), to its Certified Sites program, which now has 35 sites enrolled. The Iowa sites, both also certified by the Iowa Economic Development Authority, include a 128-acre parcel with 116 contiguous acres available along four-lane U.S. Highway 61 in Fort Madison along the Mississippi River and the 1,600+-acre Mills Crossing Mega Site in Glenwood, located within the Omaha metro area all the way over on the other side of the state. The Kansas site is the 205-acre Astra Enterprise Park along the BNSF mainline between Kansas City and Lawrence.

Last summer, Jacksonville, Florida–based CSX added eight sites of various preparation levels to its Select Site program. CSX partners with Greenville, South Carolina–based Global Location Strategies (GLS) to evaluate sites using the latter’s Lasso and Site Shepherd tools. Site Shepherd analyzes environmental, social and governance factors, such as renewable energy usage, community impacts and brownfield site reuse. Here are the newest Select Sites by level and their affiliated economic development organizations:

 

Gold Level 

  • CNJ Property, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, Montgomery, Alabama

Silver Level 

  • Clarius Park, Grundy County Economic Development Council, Morris, Illinois 
  • Ottawa Industrial Park, Ottawa, Illinois
  • Milligan Site, Shelby County Development Corporation, Shelbyville, Indiana 

Bronze Level

  • Richmond Industrial Park South III, Richmond Industrial Development Corporation, Richmond, Kentucky 
  • Shoal River Ranch Giga Site, One Okaloosa Economic Development Council, Crestview, Florida
  • Port Bienville Industrial Park, Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission, Kiln, Mississippi 
  • East Moon Rail Site, Franklin County IDB, Winchester, Tennessee

CN’s Certified Rail Ready Site program, administered in partnership with Austin Consulting, includes 10 sites in Canada and six sites in the U.S., from ScotiaPort in Nova Scotia and Montréal East in Québec to Helena Industrial Complex in Jackson County, Mississippi, and Greenview Industrial Gateway in Grande Prairie, Alberta. 

In 2023, Norfolk Southern added 41 new rail-served industrial development sites to its customizable NSites search database. Of the 813 properties found in that database, 53 are certified.

The railroad’s business development and real estate team has been putting these and other sites to good use, as the company announced early this year it had partnered with 62 customers to complete strategic industrial development projects in 2023 along its 22-state rail network. Collectively, the projects represent $3.1 billion in investment and the creation of more than 4,150 new jobs, Norfolk Southern said.

“Norfolk Southern worked with customers and economic development partners to facilitate broad-based industrial development in 2023 and set the stage for growth in 2024,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Ed Elkins. “Our 2023 project list, and 2024 pipeline, reflect our ability to serve a diverse customer portfolio with our expanding supply chain offerings.”

Among those projects are a $3 billion EV battery cell plant from GM and Samsung SDI in New Carlisle, Indiana; Pure Cycle’s $363 million polypropylene recycling plant in Lawrence County, Ohio; and Scout Motors’ $2 billion complex in Richland County, South Carolina.

“Norfolk Southern is an important link in the supply chain for Scout Motors that served as a valuable early planning partner and collaborator,” said Scout Motors Vice President of Growth Cody Thacker in the railroad’s press release. “Incorporating inbound and outbound rail service will allow Scout Motors to sustainably handle rapid production growth, to remain sensitive to the communities surrounding the plant, and to deliver hundreds of thousands of Scout trucks and SUVs to consumers across America.”


Mississippi’s Investment in Shovel-Ready Sites Attracting Major Players, Generating Economic Growth

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One of many Mississippi available sites in progress.

 

In the realm of economic development, states often compete fiercely to attract new business and industry with the primary goals of creating jobs for their citizens and stimulating growth within their communities. Mississippi, recognizing the importance of providing prime locations for industrial development, invests generously in its industrial parks through the Site Development Grant Program, which has proven effective in attracting major players to the state. 

Since its inception, the Site Development Grant Program has become a cornerstone of the state’s economic development strategy, aiming to enhance infrastructure and site readiness so prospective companies can rest assured the behind-the-scenes work and due diligence has been tackled in advance. Mississippi provides financial assistance to local communities and authorities for the development of industrial sites by offering grants to support infrastructure improvements such as road construction, utility upgrades and site grading. By investing in these critical aspects, Mississippi reduces the barriers to entry for prospective businesses, making the state an attractive destination for companies seeking suitable locations for their operations and those that prioritize speed to market in today’s fast-paced economy.

 

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Companies finding success with Mississippi’s certified sites

Through this initiative, the state’s megasites — expansive parcels of land strategically prepared for large-scale industrial projects — also are receiving upgrades so companies are more inclined to choose one of these shovel-ready sites that can easily accommodate projects of a certain magnitude. They undergo rigorous due diligence and preparation to ensure they meet the stringent requirements of modern industries. This meticulous planning involves environmental assessments, land surveys and zoning approvals. Mississippi’s megasites also offer numerous additional advantages for prospective investors, with one key benefit being their strategic locations, typically situated near major transportation arteries such as highways, rail lines and ports, facilitating the rapid movement of goods and materials to U.S. and international markets. Additionally, the state’s megasites boast ample infrastructure, including robust utility networks and advanced telecommunications capabilities, minimizing the time and cost required for development. By proactively addressing the needs of industry today, the state enhances the attractiveness and competitiveness of its megasites, positioning them as premier destinations for growth. 

For example, Amazon Web Services announced in January it is investing $10 billion to locate two data centers at the Madison County Megasite and Costa Site; and an electric vehicle battery joint venture between Accelera by Cummins, PACCAR and Daimler Trucks & Buses also announced in January it is investing at least $1.9 billion to locate EV battery cell operations at the Chickasaw Trails Megasite in Marshall County. Together, these projects are generating 3,000 new jobs for Mississippians.

The impact of Mississippi’s Site Development Grant Program reverberates across the state’s economy by fostering job creation, significant capital investment and economic diversification. Beyond immediate economic gains, the development of Mississippi’s megasites also lays the foundation for long-term sustainable growth. By leveraging its strategic assets and fostering collaboration between public and private stakeholders, Mississippi cultivates an environment conducive to innovation, entrepreneurship and industry clusters. The presence of established megasites also enhances the state’s appeal to a broad spectrum of industries, ranging from automotive and aerospace to advanced manufacturing and logistics.

By investing in critical infrastructure and preparing prime locations for development, Mississippi underscores its commitment to fostering growth, prosperity and opportunity for its residents while laying the groundwork for sustainable and inclusive economic advancement in the years to come.

Ready to find your ideal location? Consider Mississippi. Contact
the Mississippi Development Authority at 1.800.360.3323 or locateinms@mississippi.org

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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