Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois on Thursday praised construction of a new intermodal container terminal at Archer Daniels Midland Co.'s major agricultural processing and headquarters complex in Decatur as a tool for helping boost the state's economy,
“Within a few short years I think we will see the dynamic growth of the inland port. Our state is a huge exporting state. We are the No. 1 exporting state by far in the Midwest and we are fifth in the country,” he said.
ADM "is certainly one of the reasons we are such dynamic, exporting state. All across the country, we stand out. And we have to understand exports mean jobs and we have to expand our markets whether it is South America, Asia, Africa, or Europe," the governor added.
Quinn spoke at a ribbon-cutting ceremony ADM held to publicize its new intermodal facility, which is located on 250 acres and offers direct connection to three Class I railroads—Norfolk Southern, CSX, and Canadian National.
The terminal offers the ability to reach ports on both the West and East coasts of the United States and Canada, noted Mark Schweitzer, managing director of intermodal and container freight at ADM. The three carriers also offer connect with other railroads—for example Norfolk Southern exchanges boxes with BNSF in Kansas City.
The terminal has a capacity to handle 50,000 containers annually and eventually triple that volume.
Operating since June, the yard gives the company's two large plants in Decatur access to competing rail carriers, and eliminates the need for container drayage to off-site rail ramps. It may also help attract more empty containers to central Illinois for reload with exports.
Scott Fredericksen, president of ADM Transportation, noted containerized transportation is the “fastest gowing mode of transportation today.”
While privately owned, the new yard will be open to other companies, allowing them “the ability to access markets anywhere, at any time, and do so quickly and cost-effectively,” he said.
“We are optimistic that businesses in our region will join us to help drive the economic growth this facility is capable of catalyzing,” Fredericksen said.
The new ramp is located in central Illinois, an area planted heavily with corn and soybeans. (The call letters for a Decatur local radio station are WSOY.) Decatur is also home to Tate and Lyle's largest corn processing facility.
“This is a state and area that is heavy on exporting,” noted Claudio Bozzo, president and chief executive officer of Mediterranean Shipping Co. USA, who was one of several steamship executives attending the ceremony. “Any line that is heavy on exports has to look at Illinois with interest.”
The new ramp “will help this area with the continuing growth—not only ADM, but the entire area. It's additional way to serve their customers and generate additional profit for their company,” he said.
ADM and economic development officials hope regional manufacturers and retailers and distribution facilities may choose to move containers through the ramp.
Caterpillar has a factory that makes mining trucks and scrapers adjacent to the Decatur ramp. It is in the process of making trial shipments of parts to that facility that are manufactured in Europe and Brazil through the rail ramp, said Mike Gaffigan, transportation operations manager.
“We will evaluate the viability of the intermodal ramp based on the success that we have with these trial shipments,” he said. If it proves successful, he said Caterpillar could move imported parts to the Decatur facility, and potentially its plant in Peoria.
Craig Coil, president of the Economic Development Corp. of Decatur and Macon County, said in addition to Caterpillar, there are many manufacturers and importers scattered within 100 miles of Decatur that move thousands of containers through Central Illinois daily.
These include companies such as Komatsu America in Peoria, Bunn-O-Matic, the coffee machine maker in Springfield, the Rural King Supply chain in Mattoon, and the Horizon Hobby in Champaign.
The Decatur facility could become more attractive if there are increased opportunities to move inbound containers to factories or warehouses in the area.
"Repositioning of the empties is the key in this area," Bozzo said.
The ADM ramp was the subject of a story, "All points on the compass
," in the October 2012 issue of American Shipper