Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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Commissioners pledge $300K for transload facility in Mebane

Mebane city council to be asked for the other half of amount needed to fund cost increases beyond what General Assembly allocated in 2021

Alamance County’s elected leaders have agreed to fast track some funds to help pay for a new rail facility in Mebane where local businesses would one day be able to move cargo to and from railcars.

During a regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday, the county’s board of commissioners unanimously pledged just over $300,843 for this so-called transload facility, which the Samet Corporation of Greensboro hopes to establish on 4 acres at the corner of West Holt Street and Lake Latham Road in Mebane.

This project, which has been in the offing for nearly a decade, was initially conceived as the follow-up to a trackside production plant that the plastics manufacturer Cambro has set up at North Carolina Industrial Center – an industrial park that Samet has developed in Mebane.

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Among the inducements that convinced Cambro to build this facility was a promise from the state government to construct a rail spur to serve the company’s needs. Samet had hoped from the get-go to expand this sidetrack to provide rail access for the park’s other occupants. Yet, it wasn’t until 2021 that this vision became viable when the N.C. General Assembly set aside $2.6 million for a new transload facility in the state’s annual budget.

Since the state legislature approved this appropriation, the anticipated cost of this project has risen to $3,201,686. In order to cover this extra expense, the Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce has sought some additional funds from both the city of Mebane and Alamance County’s government.

During the commissioners’ meeting Monday, David Putnam, the chamber’s economic development director, assured the county’s governing board that their prospective contribution to this project would pay off in spades for area businesses.

“It’s very hard to get rail directly to your facility,” Putnam noted when he addressed the commissioners that evening. “We have a lot of people who could utilize this asset that don’t sit right on rail. This would open up opportunities for manufacturers, farmers, everybody to use this product…without paying the North Carolina Railroad or Norfolk Southern for a rail spur.”

David Putnam, economic development director, Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce

“We have a lot of people who could utilize this asset that don’t sit right on rail. This would open up opportunities for manufacturers, farmers, everybody to use this product…without paying the North Carolina Railroad or Norfolk Southern for a rail spur. . .

“It would add another layer of competitive advantage to Alamance County’s industrial growth – and also its general growth. we truly envision this transload facility to be an asset that’s going to spill over into multiple jurisdictions . . . and have a tremendous regional presence for Alamance County.”

– David Putnam, economic development director, Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce

Putnam added that the county’s proposed subsidy would allow Samet to construct a rail loop next to Cambro’s production plant where companies without direct rail access could go to ship and receive rail cargo.

This transload facility would feature a concrete dock with the capacity to serve two railcars at once. It would also include three rail spurs where additional railcars could wait until they got their own turn at the dock.

[Story continues below graphic of the proposed outline of new transload facility near Cambro plant in Mebane at the corner of West Holt Street and Lake Latham Road.]

Putnam added that this communal docking station would be operated by a nonprofit that Samet plans to create in order “to keep costs low so that more users can utilize the facility.”

Putnam told the commissioners that this docking station would fill an important need for area businesses that must presently go to either Winston-Salem or Fuquay-Varina to reach the nearest available transload facility. The chamber’s economic development director added that the proposed setup in Mebane may ultimately attract users from outside of the county that find the current transload options too inconvenient.

“It would add another layer of competitive advantage to Alamance County’s industrial growth – and also its general growth,” he said. “We truly envision this transload facility to be an asset that’s going to spill over into multiple jurisdictions…and have a tremendous regional presence for Alamance County.”

In order to allow Samet to break ground on this project, Putnam asked the commissioners to chip in half of the $601,686 that the industrial park’s developer still needs on top of the state’s allocation to complete this endeavor. He added that Samet intends to obtain the remainder of these funds from Mebane’s city council, which has yet to vote on its proposed allotment.

The commissioners went to approve Putnam’s request by a margin of 5-to-0.

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