Four months ago, in a “soft” transfer that was not highly publicized, CSX sold the portion of its rail system that runs from Baldwin, just west of Jacksonville, to just east of Pensacola. That track runs right through downtown Marianna.
In June, the section was taken over by Florida Gulf and Atlantic Railway (FGA), a subsidiary of RailUSA. FGA was newly created as a result of the section purchase, according to Opportunity Florida’s Roy Baker. RailUSA is headquartered in Boca Raton,
Opportunity Florida held a meeting recently with board members and economic developers in Northwest Florida in order to introduce FGA to the community.
“Waris Wade, David Pope and Jeff Goutcher told the group they are interested in working with all types and sizes of businesses,” Baker advised in a press release about that meeting The rail serves Jackson and other counties in Northwest Florida, including Escambia, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa, as well as Gadsden, Holmes, Walton and Washington.
Baker says the company is “very excited” to have acquired the old River Junction rail yard at Chattahoochee as part of the deal, and that he expects a few “loader/unloader” jobs to result if the company fulfills its desire to re-establish River Junction as a fully active rail yard. It has been essentially idle for years
Baker said the company has also talked about the possibility of adding some spurs along the line to more fully serve the communities through which the track travels.
Some of the biggest news come from this for the local community, Baker speculated, might be the fact that FGA is enthusiastically pursuing customers in the small business sector. CSX, Baker said, was primarily interested in much larger customers that were looking to engage several of its rail cars to move product. That left smaller concerns out in the cold as far as rail transportation through that company was concerned.
But FGA, Baker said, very much wants to do business with those who need to use just one or two cars at a time. And that, Baker said, opens up many possibilities for existing companies and could spur new companies to locate here if the rail company establishes or embellishes the infrastructure needed. There are existing spurs, and an intersection with the north-south running Bay Line rail that serves the Enviva pellet plant in Cottondale.
Baker provided more information in the release. “FGA operates as a Class III rail line,” he wrote. “They will transport commodities such as aggregate, agricultural products, cement, lumber, renewable energy products and much more. FGA is very interested in increasing their exposure in our region and is willing to invest in local projects, both at a city and county level. They will also do transloading, a transfer between modes, such as truck to rail.”
“FGA is very interested in Chattahoochee as a transloading site. There are several good sites along the line and they intend on working with our members and businesses to develop these sites and increasing business in the area,” Baker concluded.
Wade, FGA’s Sales and Marketing Manager, also explained the company’s outlook. “The Florida Gulf and Atlantic Railway has an operating philosophy very different from the nation’s big rail carriers, like Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern and CSX, which used to own the local railroad,” Wade said. “We run through 11 counties all the way from Baldwin to Pensacola. We are very intimately getting to know the county commissioners; we work closely with FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation) on many levels. We work closely with some of the communities already, introducing ourselves to the Panhandle. Whereas the larger Class I railroads aren’t able to be as intimate with the community, we are,” Wade continued. “There are industries, customers and prospects that want to get into the rail industry and if it requires us to put in a siding track, use existing infrastructure, do something differently, we’re extremely flexible to do that, We will partner with new customers and if it takes us to finance the infrastructure that needs to be put in, we have options. That’s what we look at first. We want to grow the business and maintain what we already have in place.”
To find out more directly from the company, contact Wade at 850-207-5305. You can also contact Baker at Opportunity Florida, 860-633-4119, with questions or for other specific FGA contacts if you are interested in working with the company.