Port takes distribution hub efforts nationwide

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Infrastructure allows rapid, efficient movement of goods

By MATTHEW WEAVER

Capital Press

Managers of a Central Washington port district want to market it as a national produce distribution hub.

The Port of Quincy, Wash., is working with shipper Rail Logistics and refrigerated warehouse company Columbia Colstor to tout its location for packing, shipping and distributing produce.

"We've got all the ingredients," said Pat Boss, public affairs and business development director for the port. "We're the only port in the Northwest to have a fast train to the Midwest dedicated to produce and frozen food. No other port in the country has a three-day train that can go from Quincy to Chicago."

Boss said the port's strengths include its status as a foreign trade zone, low-cost power and access to interstate highways.

In addition to shipping to the Midwest, the port is looking for companies that want to ship to the Northwest.

"There are a lot of companies in the Southeast that would like to have distribution hubs in the Northwest," Boss said. "That response is telling us there's a niche the port can fill."

The port's partnership with Cold Train Intermodal, a spinoff of Rail Logistics, launched in April 2010.

Steve Lawson, president of Rail Logistics and Cold Train, said the operation approached 5,000 container loads in its first year, roughly 400 a month.

In the next 18 months, he said, the company believes it can hit 15,000 annually, with a long-term goal of 100,000 loads per year, or 50,000 each direction.

Each load is a 53-foot container, with about 42,000 pounds. Lawson said the company ships fresh produce and frozen products outbound and consumer goods inbound.

Boss said Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway has been a good partner.

"Their attitude has really changed about fresh produce and frozen commodities, and they're making it a higher priority," he said.

As the number of containers increases, said Curt Morris, commissioner for the port district, the capacity to ship eastbound also goes up.

"We need to have something coming back so we're not shipping containers empty," he said.

The campaign will last into the foreseeable future, Boss said.

"We're talking about a new rail service that's going to offer a lot of new options for companies and shippers in Central Washington to make them more competitive and help keep their costs down," he said.

Online

Port of Quincy: www.portofquincy.org

Port of Quincy Intermodel: www.portofquincyintermodal.com

Rail Logistics/Cold Train: www.rrlx.com/coldtraincars.php

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