The Port Authority of Stafford County is still in the works to preserve, enhance, and improve economic prosperity in Stafford County, KS! The legal framework is in place, but no land has been identified or purchased without having an anchor tenant that will offset the costs.
The Port would be a location for industrial operations with the feature of trans-load facilities where freight would be moved from truck to rail or rail to truck. The benefit for companies is that they could access the BNSF Railroad through a publicly available access point.
To begin development, the Port will need to identify a specific tract of land to build the facility. The Port has not taken this step without having an anchor tenant in place that will share the costs of development. Once an anchor tenant is interested, the Port Authority would need to purchase the land to put the facility on, and apply for grants to offset the costs of building the infrastructure, primarily a railroad loop track. Tenants of the Port would pay access fees to use that track that would offset costs of construction and operation not paid by grants.
In 2018, Economic Development and the County of Stafford partnered together and contracted with a professor at Kansas State University's Ag Economics department to conduct a feasibility study that will be completed on or before April 1, 2019. The purpose of a feasibility study is to help assess the viability of a business proposition - intermodal grain handling facility - with an assessment of alternative sources of warehousing and storage from ownership, to rental, to strategic alliance opportunities.
Similar to what Economic Development did with the development of a grocery store in St. John, the feasibility study projected sales volumes and the kind of space a building should have to be successful. This information allowed Economic Development to construct a new facility for a grocer to operate. The shared investment strategy is what we need in our environment.
To examine the extent in which Stafford County is a feasible location for an intermodal grain facility
Identify realistic alternatives or other complementary services to grain loading and unloading that encourage a shared investment opportunity for other stakeholders
Help the client determine whether to proceed with this opportunity/investment
There will be three levels to the study:
Operational Feasibility - and the question that is asked at this level is "Will it work?"
Technical Feasibility - entails an assessment of the logistics and technological aspects of the project. For example, the access to transportation lanes, and improved competitiveness to destination points.
Economic Feasibility - might contain elements of the potential impact a new business has on financial and non-financial facets of Stafford County.
Questions and Answers
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? Currently, there is no ready-to-develop industrial area in Stafford County. 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 businesses 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.
Proposed Plan of Development
Courthouse Annex 210 E. 3rd PO Box 233 St. John, KS 67576