Rail park ground breaking

Ean Johnson, at the podium, BNSF’s regional manager of economic development, spoke of railroad’s partnership with the state of New Mexico at the Central New Mexico Rail Park ground-breaking ceremony last week.

LOS LUNAS — Out on the western edges of Los Lunas, the desert prairie of the San Clemente Land Grant holds the promise of thousands of jobs.

Ground was broken by community leaders Dec. 28 for the incoming Central New Mexico Rail Park.

Los Lunas Councilor Gino Romero, Bernalillo County Commission Chairman Art De La Cruz and others celebrated the public and private partnership supporting the rail park, which officials say could transform New Mexico’s transportation and logistics industry and create a large number of jobs.

“We’re excited — everything just seemed to come together at the right time,” said Tim Cummins, co-owner of the 1,627 acre rail park and RIO Real Estate Investment Opportunities, LLC.

The firm also owns the Merillat facility and Los Morros Business Park west of Interstate 25 in Los Lunas. The rail park is five miles west of I-25 and is located on the north side of N.M. 6.

Cummins said it is an industrial park similar to the Los Morros Business Park but will provide rail service to allow manufacturers to move goods to ports around the region and west to California.

“The potential of the manufacturing jobs and the construction build-out, especially on the heels of Facebook and what it does for the construction economy here, could help be a game-changer for our economy in central New Mexico,” Cummins said. “We originally thought it would mainly be warehouse distribution (jobs) but it turns out most of our inquiries are for manufacturing.”

De La Cruz commented that the 400-acre first phase of development holds the potential for 4,000 to 5,000 new jobs.

“Now bear in mind, that’s only 400 acres of 1,400 acres that will ultimately be developed,” the commissioner said. “That means there’s going to be an awful lot of jobs here, a lot more than 4,000 to 5,000 jobs, which we absolutely look forward to. These are good jobs for people in Valencia, Bernalillo County, Sandoval County and Torrance and even McKinley County.”

Truck driving, shipping and warehouse positions, assembly and manufacturing jobs.

“I look forward to manufacturers who will be located here, who see the potential and the ideal location of having a hub where you can make things, load them onto a train and take them across the country both east and west,” said De La Cruz.

RIO economic development project specialist Lawrence Rael said most rail parks are between 400 to 500 acres.

“With 1,400 acres, the Central New Mexico Rail Park could be the largest in the nation,” Rael said.

There have been five or six manufacturing-type inquiries and different companies that have heard about the park and the opportunities the park might provide for them, but Rael would not disclose their names, saying only that they are mostly national companies.

“When Tesla was looking to put in a battery manufacturing facility, one of the biggest requirements was a rail service track and we didn’t have that ... and now we do,” he said. “Now, we will have the opportunity to attract businesses like that.”

The brokers said they started working to develop an industrial rail park back in 2007.

The first phase of development the firm is initiating includes about 400 acres for a warehouse, manufacturing and distribution center. Tim MacEachen, a RIO associate, said they estimate it will cost around $25 million.

“This fills a void that we have been trying to complete for a long, long time,” said MacEachen. “I think it’s going to be absolutely amazing.”

De La Cruz said he is proud that Bernalillo County could join in that partnership. Earlier this month, the Bernalillo County commissioners approved a $400,000 LEDA grant for construction of a rail spur into the park.

The BNSF spur is scheduled to be built by summer, said Ean Johnson, BNSF regional manager of economic development, and by mid-summer, the track into the park is slated to be completed. Rail park train traffic is expected to start with two to three trains per week but the goal is one train per day.

The commodities to be transported could include lumber, dry goods, equipment, petroleum, agricultural commodities and others, Rael said.

“We have done the environmental reviews for all of the biological, endangered species and all of the watershed management — all of the things that normally go into a development,” Rael said. “If, for example, you have a petroleum base ... loading and off loading, you have to meet all the EPA requirements for ensuring safety ... in terms of spills and those environmental (issues).

“The BNSF requires them anyway because they’re the ones that are shipping it,” Rael continued.

BNSF has been a longtime partner of the state in industrial development efforts going back to the Santa Fe Railway.

“Half of our name is based off of your state capital,” Johnson said. “We’ve always looked at New Mexico as a partner and have always wanted to help with the industrial development effort and we see this as another way to do that.”

Rail works in a regional way, so having a place where you can aggregate volume for industrial customers gives the region something to market, he said.

“At the same time (it) gives our customers a place where they know they’re going to get safe and efficient rail service. We see that as being something we can do here,” Johnson said.

BNSF chose and approved the site for service, which offers inter-modal transportation. This facility will help with regional economic growth.

“I am extremely proud that two member governments of the Mid-Region Council of Governments are responsible for facilitating this effort today, Bernalillo County and the village of Los Lunas,” said Dewey V. Cave, MRCOG executive director.

“It’s no secret that our proximity to local markets in Texas, Arizona and Mexico makes our region desirable as a point of distribution.

“Additionally, BNSF officials tell us that we could attract new types of industry if we increased our capacity to handle inter-modal shipments in the area,” Cave continued. “I believe the success in developing this type of key infrastructure can only be accomplished through the interagency collaboration that we’re seeing here today. I think it is a great regional project.”

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