You may have seen recent public notices or radio announcements about Port Authority of Stafford County, and would like to know more about what is being planned. What is a Port Authority? Why is it needed? How is it paid for and where will it be? Here are some answers for your questions.
What is a Port Authority? A port is a public transportation facility, and can include among other things industrial use facilities. So, practically speaking in Stafford County a Port Authority gives us a way to develop an industrial park that is interconnected with the rail and highway system, which is arguably Stafford County’s strongest strategic advantage when it comes to industrial development.
Why is it needed? There is no ready to develop industrial area in Stafford County currently. That is, there is no land designated and available for development, with proper zoning in place and transparent purchase or lease terms. Ironic as it may sound in a small town where it appears that plenty of space is available for business, actually finding available space in undeveloped land or even existing buildings can be a significant barrier to getting started. As a matter of fact, there has been more than one large opportunity for business relocation that our county has missed in part because of this.
What will it be? This will somewhat depend on what business we can identify as an “anchor” business, but a likely scenario is that the Port will develop a loop railroad track that can accommodate 100 railcars at a time. The Port Authority would own the rail track and lease access to it. This helps the business establish itself here because it has less capital investment to make up-front, but has the advantage of substantially reduced rail rates that come from loading “unit” trains (trains of 100 cars). From Stafford county’s perspective, one of the advantages of the Port Authority is that the rail loop infrastructure could be used to establish more than one business. In particular, there is no public intermodal transload facility serving the western half of Kansas and filling this need could be good business for Stafford County and the region. A transload facility is a place where freight is moved from rail to highway or highway to rail. Having a public transload facility would provide a means to aggregate loads to build unit trains, thereby providing better freight rates to numerous small to medium size businesses in the region that are not large enough to establish rail connections on their own.
How is it paid for? The Port is eligible for a number of state and federal grants for which an individual business would not, which may be substantial in getting the port established. Furthermore, businesses that access the track and its facilities would pay fees and leases to the port.
Where will it be? The Port Authority of Stafford County has published and received comment on a plan for development. This plan does not identify a specific location, but rather defines the broad purpose for the Port of encouraging the location or expansion of business and promote economic stability. The Port Authority will now begin talking with potential business that may locate here and landowners willing to sell land to identify possible locations. When a proposed location is identified, a modified plan for development will be published and additional public hearings will be held.
The population of Stafford County declined 17% in between 1990 and 2010. Economic growth is needed for maintaining the basic services we expect in our community. The Port Authority of Stafford County will provide a means for creating jobs and economic activity that are needed for supporting the tax base, schools, and existing retail businesses.
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Stafford County Economic Development
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