St. Paul, MN (Oct. 8, 2013)--Twin Cities and Western Railroad (TC&W), the freight rail carrier at the heart of the Southwest Light Rail Transitway (SLRT) planning process, is a key player in the economic health of rural Minnesota, according to a study conducted by KlasRobinson Q.E.D., a Twin Cities market research firm that based its findings on a confidential survey of the railroad’s largest customers.
The study, released today, shows that TC&W’s largest 20 shippers generate more than $4 billion in combined annual sales, and ship more than 37 percent of those goods, about $1.5 billion worth, via the Glencoe-based freight line.
Seventeen of the top 20 shippers are rural Minnesota companies or agricultural cooperatives that utilize the railroad to reach markets in 39 U.S. states, seven Canadian provinces and four Mexican states. They ship a diverse array of products ranging from corn, soybeans, wheat, sugar and vegetables to ethanol, fertilizer, machinery, lumber, crushed rock, metals, plastics, fuel oil, and manufactured goods.
Together, the 20 companies employ an estimated 2,660 employees with combined annual wages of over $111 million. Over the past two decades, they have invested more than $500 million in production, processing and shipping facilities located along the existing TC&W rail line.
“The magnitude of the direct impacts of Twin Cities and Western Railroad and its customers provides compelling evidence of the importance of the freight rail carrier to Minnesota’s rural economy,” the report concludes.
TC&W’s role in the regional transportation picture has become more important as planning for the SLRT project has accelerated. Under federal law, the interests of freight rail operators and shippers must be considered in the development of passenger rail service.
TC&W President Mark Wegner said there’s a reason for that federal policy. “It preserves freight rail transportation,” said Wegner. “but more importantly, it preserves thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of investment by rural businesses that rely on us to get their goods to market safely and cost-effectively.”
Twin Cities & Western Railroad is a Class III rail carrier based in Glencoe, MN. It operates over 229 miles of track between the Twin Cities and western Minnesota/eastern South Dakota, connecting with all Class I railroads and providing a gateway to world markets for its agricultural and manufacturing customers.