Friday, January 29, 2010

Paper company seeks grant for track repair

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Irving Tissue is seeking state funding for a $1 million project that would repair 4,200 feet of railroad tracks leading to its Fort Edward, N.Y., plant, the Glens Falls Post Star reports. The repairs to the tracks are needed to accommodate the expected increase in train traffic to the plant when a new paper machine comes online in the fall, Fort Edward town Supervisor Mitch Suprenant said.

The track, which runs across Broadway in Fort Edward, is currently in use. But the volume of trains loaded with pulp bound for the plant is expected to increase later this year, Suprenant said.

"That track cannot handle that much traffic," he said. "That track is going to be used probably four times more than it is now."

Suprenant joined state Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury; Washington County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Rymph; and Tori Riley, the county's economic development director, in a meeting with company officials to discuss obtaining the grant money.

The state government would pay for 60 percent of the project, or $600,000, if the grant is approved. The other 40 percent would be paid with an interest-free loan that must be paid back within five years, according to the Department of Transportation. County officials could send the grant application to the state Department of Transportation by the Jan. 29, Suprenant said.

"It's a plus for the whole area, not just Fort Edward," he said.

While the repaired tracks won't create any new jobs, the construction is expected to retain workers who have been recently hired by the company, said Rymph.

"It's stimulus, it's supposed to create new jobs, but also retention of jobs can qualify," Rymph said. "Irving has basically tripled the employment of the place since they bought it."

Local officials estimated that jobs at the plant have grown from 70 three years ago to more than 300.

The Canada-based company announced in August 2008 it planned to add 136,000 square feet of production space to the Fort Edward plant to house a new state-of-the-art paper machine.

Tori Riley said the company's expansion and railroad repair are not contingent on receiving the money.

"The expansion project was moving forward regardless," Riley said. "We were just seeing if this was something we could help them along with."

The company has already hired 22 people who would eventually work in the plant's expanded space.

"Irving's really put in a lot of dedication to being here," she said.

"They know what they're doing and they bring an awful lot to the region."

A spokeswoman for the company did not return calls seeking comment.

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