Representatives of two businesses in Barron County see huge potential for growth in jobs and the economy in Barron County. The only roadblock is two railroad companies whose lines do not connect because neither wants the other to benefit from it.
In the battle over territory and profit, one rail company dumped rock on the line; the other tore out 300 feet of track.
Representatives of McFarland Cascade and Northern Wisconsin Sand asked the Executive Committee of the Barron County Board of Supervisors at its June 7 meeting to support their efforts to get Canadian National Rail and Union Pacific to work cooperatively.
John Younce, vice president of McFarland Cascade, said he thought their site at the corner of Hwys. 8 and SS in Cameron was an ideal for the construction of their pole plant. Ideal, that is, if the two rail lines in the vicinity would hook up and “mend their fences.”
Younce said if the rail service would grow, the company would complete an addition to supply farther markets, as far as Canada.
He said two rail service lines would also allow for more competitive rail service rates.
Executive Committee chair Louie Okey acknowledged that rail companies are terrible to work with because they are autonomous and that’s how they operate.
“We’ll support anything to generate more business, but I don’t know if it will help,” Okey said.
Larry McGlumphy, general manager of Northern Industrial Sands, and his assistant, Katie Fortin, said they are hopeful that the weight of government, community, industry coming together can make a reconnection of the two rail lines a reality.
“We’ll make this happen,” McGlumphy said.
“It’s illogical [to remain disconnected] but they don’t care. If we can show them how it will make money, we can get this connected .”
He said not just NIS and McFarland are to gain from it, but it would be a positive impact to every business on their lines.
County administrator Jeff French said that includes Bell Pole, Jennie-O, Superior Silica Sands, and it should help them all.
The company suggested a grassroots effort would give the state and federal governmental entities more leverage with the rail companies.
“Your permission and endorsement triggers other dominos,” McGlumphy said, who is collecting analytical data about the types of revenue available through rail lines that is currently being lost.
“If, or rather when, we get this, connecting to the Dakotas, Chicago and to the East all is feasible,” he said. “We estimate $40,000, or $60,000 at the most, to reconnect. That’s not a lot of money to make the fix, and federal dollars can be brought in to build infrastructure.”
In a written comment, McGlumphy said, “As we all know, a business, like many things, can only succeed when given the opportunity to do so. NIS is a business that aims to succeed and grow... To do so, NIS must diversify its products to meet customers changing needs and expand into global markets of opportunity.
“Access to the expanding global market of opportunity is as close of a few short miles from NIS’ front door. However, there are literally gaps of connecting rail track which would reconnect rail customers located along Progressive Rail short line and Canadian National Railway in Barron County.”
He added, “Barron County has a deep understanding of the importance of keeping railroad lines open and active.”
Committee member Don Hortsman said hauling more freight on trains rather than trucks would make the highways safer, and they would last longer too.
Committee member Bun Hanson moved to pass a resolution showing county support for a reconnection of rail lines.