River’s Edge Industries started in 2004, looking for any available existing structure with rail service. They found a site in the former US Army Melvin Price Support Center. Once a major employer in the area, this Army base had recently been closed and transferred to the Tri-City Regional Port District for redevelopment, who later renamed it America’s Central Port. River’s Edge is a third-party specialty chemical repackaging company. Chemical manufacturers will ship tank cars of additives and lubricants to River’s Edge, to be placed in barrels, drums, and ISO containers for shipment worldwide.
While not ACP’s first tenant, River’s Edge became the Port Harbor Railroad’s first customer. ACP was a good geographic fit because it was close to River’s Edge’s primary customer—only about 12 miles away. While the conventional wisdom says that rail is only good for long moves, railcars provided an added advantage over truck in allowing the company to use the railcar as a storage vessel. This eliminated the need for expensive storage tanks, speeding startup and saving capital. Additionally, it saves transferring the product one more time, providing not only operating savings but protecting against spills and contamination of the finished product.
In that first year, the company’s 3 employees processed 200 carloads, and the Port Harbor Railroad was now off and running. The cars arrived via the Terminal Railroad Association (TRRA), with half originating on TRRA and half originating on the Kansas City Southern, but all from the customer’s complex in the metro area.
Today, the company has about five workable car spots, plus room to store 15 more cars, and staff have come to depend upon the Port Harbor Railroad’s responsive 24-hour service. The after-hours service and inter-plant switching is critical to keeping product moving. As Facility Manager Sean Owen stated, “Daily switching is a requirement. Working with the Port Harbor Railroad, we can turn the product faster. There were a couple of situations where we needed a second switch 2 hours after the railroad completed our daily switch, and the Port Harbor was able to meet our needs which saved us from a shutdown. Other times, we were able to meet cutoff times for outbound intermodal shipments because the railroad was able to respot cars for us with very little notice.”
By 2014, volumes had grown to about 300 carloads per year and Rivers’ Edge now employed 15 people. At that time, The management team decided to make the investment in a new permanent facility on a Greenfield site. They had reached maximum production capacity and knew they hadn’t tapped all of the potential customers. The new site had to have good rail service. “When recruiting customers, I want to be able to tell them my rail service is good,” explained Owens. After looking around the region for a suitable location that had buildable land and good rail service, however, the Port Harbor Railroad’s consistent dependability and plus the direct connection to TRRA convinced River’s Edge to build a new permanent facility in America’s Central Port. Said Owens, “With the Port Harbor, the service is outstanding. I can call someone and ask the railroad to hold off 15 more minutes if I need, or I can ask them to bring my cars in two hours early. Rail service was an issue at other locations we visited, and became a deal-breaker many times.”
With the new facility, River’s Edge will have 50% more space and will grow from the current 5 car spots to 20. The facility will incorporate all of the lessons learned since 2004 to give the company an ideal operation. And while the 20 car spots will definitely reduce the number of times PHRR has to come out for a short-notice switch, the railroad was able to help River’s Edge overcome the limitations of its original facility and stay flexible enough to meet production requirements. Working in conjunction with America’s Central Port, River’s Edge is an example of how the Port Harbor Railroad can help a firm establish operations in an existing leased facility and transition to a purpose-built facility, all within the Port complex. As Owens sums it up, “For our business, we can only be as good as our transportation partners. The Port Harbor Railroad has helped us excel with what we do.”