City staff is recommending the city use the windfall to upgrade the track itself, explore creating a "foreign trade zone" around the airport to boost commerce and jumpstart a business incubator for local alternative-energy start-up companies.
The idea came from a brainstorming session on what to do with the 18.2 miles of city-owned tracks. It was one of the first things John Brunelle did when he joined Mayor Dave Bieter's economic development team in 2008 - a time when rail use was plummeting along with the economy.
He asked Union Pacific if the company needed to store rail cars - and it turned out the economy had sidelined many of its rail cars and the company didn't have a place to put them.
Though the city is facing an almost $4 million shortfall, city staffers suggest this lease money, which is put into the mayor's economic development fund, be spent to help pull the city out of the recession.