Rail Center covered in NNDA meeting in Carson City
The Fernley area will become home to a major industrial park and rail center Northern Nevada Development Authority’s Rob Hooper described as a “game changing kind of deal.”
Gateway Commerce Center will be built on 2,000 acres in Churchill and Lyon counties near Hazen and the project was covered Wednesday at the NNDA meeting at the Carson Nugget.
The key to the project, he said, is the Intermodal Rail Center Watco will build at the site. Ed McKechnie, head of Watco, said the company connects companies that need to ship materials by rail with the major rail carriers like Union Pacific, providing facilities to load those materials into rail cars, then get them to the main rail line so that all the railroads need to do is hook up and pull the cars to their destination.
He said they primarily deal with products and materials generally too heavy to move efficiently by truck.
“We like dense products,” he said. “We don’t move Styrofoam very well.”
But in moving such things as grains, fertilizers, steel or mineral products, rail becomes much more cost effective.
He said Watco is there to help companies get their product or materials to and from the main railroad line.
“We try to be that first mile and last mile, to get that stuff to the railroad for you,” he said.
The company will build the rail sidings and other facilities to load, unload and otherwise prepare those products for transport.
McKechnie said the plan will be the rail facilities will attract companies to the Gateway Commerce Center.
“It’s supply chain services” he said. “How do you get something from Hong Kong to Fernley.”
He said that’s what Watco does and the Fernley site is ideal because it already has main line rail access nearby and lots of space for companies to build there.
He said the company has 35 rail lines that do the same thing in the U.S. and Australia including in Kansas, Oklahoma and Idaho.
“We move most of the potatoes out of Idaho,” he said.
Hooper said a prime example of a Nevada customer might be the alabaster mine in Churchill County: “That’s heavy stuff. How do you get that to China?”
Another example Hooper used was the state-of–the-art powdered milk plant in Fernley. He said the product is so heavy the plant has to ship the trucks to Oakland half full.
McKechnie said the milk plant, for his company, “is a big deal.”
The development will also mean significant investment in the western Nevada economy.
“By the time you put all the facilities in, you’re talking millions of dollars,” he said.
Hooper said the challenge for NNDA is having something to draw companies to northern Nevada.
“Now we have something to sell,” he said. “I believe this is a major impact for the region if not the whole state.”