MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 19, 2012

Port seeks grants for rail upgrade

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Port of Muskogee officials are seeking a federal grant to help it accommodate growing rail traffic and help one of its largest industries grow.

At its regular meeting Tuesday, Muskogee City-County Port Authority approved a resolution to seek financing from the Economic Development Administration to help pay for improvements to its rail marshaling yard. The application also could help a port industry, V&M TCA, gain leverage in its expansion plans, said Port Director Scott Robinson.

“The infrastructure improvement allows us to receive more rail cars at one time and will allow us to move more rail cars to TCA and other Port industries,” Robinson said.

Estimated cost of the rail improvements is $505,000, according to an information packet reviewed by Authority members. The packet said the Authority would be expected to share in the project cost, with 25 percent coming from the Port and 75 percent from the Economic Development Administration.

In November, V&M TCA announced plans to make an $11.8 million investment in its port operations. The company produces seamless tubular products. The company employs more than 200 people at the port and could add 25 more jobs with the expansion.

A fire in October had damaged building and equipment used to process pipe. TCA plans to install a new straightener and build a new structure to house the equipment, a Port report said.

Shortly after V&M TCA announced its expansion plans, the Authority agreed to support the company’s application to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce for an Economic Development Pooled Finance Incentive for $3 million.

Robinson said V&M TCA’s plans to grow will help the Port seek the Economic Development Administration grant.

“We wouldn’t be eligible for the grant if it weren’t for the planned expansion of TCA,” he said.

Robinson said the port is seeing an increase in rail traffic over the past year. For the first 11 months of 2012, 4,037 rail cars carrying 373,381 tons of cargo went to and from the Port. That’s a 34 percent increase in tonnage from 2011. In November 2012, 344 rail cars carried 31,497 tons of cargo to and from the port, compared with 300 cars carrying 27,352 tons in November 2011.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.