Railroad purchase grew from unprecedented cooperation

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Railroad purchase grew from unprecedented cooperation

Last week the North Central Mississippi Regional Railroad Authority (the NCMRRA) completed the acquisition of the Grenada Railway line extending from Southaven to near Canton.

Simultaneously with the acquisition of the line, the authority signed a long-term lease agreement with a subsidiary of Iowa Pacific Holdings, to take over operations of the line and partner with the authority to attract new customers.

The line, which was targeted for abandonment by its previous owners in 2011, supports 11,174 jobs, $1.3 billion in gross product, and $1 billion in personal income, according to a 2013 study commissioned by the Mississippi Development Authority and the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Had the authority and federal, state, and local officials not taken action to save the line, it was estimated that the effects of the abandonment would have been swift, putting at risk more than 9,500 existing jobs and millions of dollars of economic impact currently sustained by companies using the line.

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A good example of such economic impact is Grenada’s Resolute Forest Products, which has an impact of more than $100 million dollars annually, sustains 170 direct and 550 indirect jobs, and ships the majority of its products to Mexico via this rail corridor.

After abandonment of the line became imminent in 2011, the counties of Tate, Panola, Yalobusha, Grenada, Montgomery, Carroll and Holmes, joined forces to create the NCMRRA with the purpose to stop the abandonment and seek alternative solutions to secure long-term rail service in the region.

With strong support from federal, state, and local elected officials, the authority opposed and successfully delayed the abandonment for three years as it sought a viable avenue to save the line. During the 2014 Legislative session (and after exploring many different avenues of action) the Mississippi House of Representatives and the Senate passed a bill, later signed by Gov. Bryant, providing authority to issue state bonds in support of the purchase of the rail line.

The support of the entire North Central Mississippi state legislative delegation, the leadership in both houses, and the leadership provided through the Northern District Office of the Mississippi Department of Transportation were all essential to the success of this regional effort.

With the acquisition of the line by the Rail Authority, our region is protecting jobs, positioning itself to create many more, and more importantly, ensuring that the line cannot be abandoned by any third party, which would put in danger the livelihood of thousands of Mississippians and the economic future of North Central Mississippi.

The Rail Authority praises the unwavering support of the hundreds of Mississippi citizens that supported this monumental effort over the past four years, the leadership of the Mississippi Congressional Delegation in Washington, and the leadership of our State representatives and Senators.

Submitted by Members of the Executive Committee North Central Mississippi Regional Railroad Authority:

Tim Climer, Director Tate County ED Foundation; Pablo Diaz, Director Grenada Econ. Dev. District; Larry Hart, Mayor, City of Water Valley; Robin McCrory, Holmes County; Sue Stidham, Director Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce; Sonny Simmons, Director, Panola Partnership and Bobby Oliver, Supervisor, Carroll County.