Monday, November 09, 2009

Rebuilding Wisconsin rail line to create jobs

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Plymouth, Wis., officials say that the city is now recruiting at least three startup manufacturers capable of creating hundreds of jobs thanks to a planned project to restore freight rail service from Plymouth to Sheboygan Falls, the Sheboygan Press reports. The companies, which city officials declined to name citing confidentiality agreements, include one manufacturer that could employ up to 500 people and two others that could create 150 jobs combined - and officials said more are expected to follow.

"You can just imagine what could spin off that," said Plymouth Mayor Don Pohlman, during a presentation to members of the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce at the City Streets restaurant in Sheboygan on Friday.

According to Pohlman, the larger company is currently considering a 150-acre parcel in the Plymouth Industrial Park, while the two smaller ones are looking at 20-acre parcels.

The main attraction for these businesses is a $15-million project to rebuild an abandoned freight rail line running from Plymouth to Sheboygan Falls, which will connect to a north-south line running from Milwaukee.

Initial work to restore the nearly 15-mile line, which has been dormant for decades, could begin as early as December, and the line could re-open by November 2010.

The project is being funded by $12 million in state funds and $3 million in local money. The City of Plymouth is considering issuing $2 million in general obligation bonds for the project as part of its 2010 budget. The city would raise the remaining $1 million using tax incremental financing bonds. Pohlman said the city would repay the debt by charging a $10 per rail-car fee to all trains passing through the city.

Additional job creation could also come from the nine or so companies that have indicated they would use the restored rail line, including Bemis Manufacturing Co., Richardson Industries, Kettle-Lakes Cooperative, Morgan Aircraft and Kohler Co.

Meanwhile, John Rogers, the chamber's business development director, said he's talked with food processors and a warehousing company that are all considering moves or expansions here because of the rail project.

"This is a very opportunistic for us from a jobs perspective," Rogers said.

Plymouth officials indicated that the lack of a rail line between the two cities has already cost the community at least one potential development opportunity.

Jerry Thompson, the city's railroad services coordinator, said a New Mexico manufacturer had strongly considering moving here to be closer to Plymouth Foam, one of its major suppliers. The move would have brought 360 jobs here, but the deal fell through, he said, because the rail line wasn't built yet.

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