Transload facility could bring jobs to St. John

Fran Brownell
St. John News
More trains, like this one at Wellington last week, could be coming to St. John soon, part of a transload facility under discussion by Stafford County leaders. The project has already received funding from the Kansas Department of Agriculture, and could bring more than 40 jobs to the area, if plans move forward.

Stafford County is poised to be the site for a highway-to-railroad transload facility and industrial park south of St. John, adjacent to the BNSF Railroad. Stafford County Economic Development Director Carolyn Dunn said that in the near future, such a facility could spawn eight-to-10 direct jobs and approximately 30 jobs in trucking and supportive services.

Dunn said Monday that Stafford EcoDevo had been awarded $150,000 in funding from the Kansas Department of Agriculture for legal costs associated with securing a site for construction. A location near St. John is under top consideration.

“The Stafford County Port Authority was authorized by the Kansas Legislature in 2014 and established by the Stafford County Commission in 2015, but has not to this date been funded and has been idle,” Dunn said.

The first step, according to Dunn, will be for Stafford County Commissioners to re-appoint board members to Stafford County Port Authority who will be tasked with establishing and publishing a Plan for Future Development, Construction, Improvement and Utilization of the Port Authority of Stafford County.

“The project has my full support,” said County Commissioner Bryce Garner, who was sworn in for duty on Monday, January 11 as a new commissioner.

Dunn said that the Port Authority has a quasi-governmental or special use district authorized to operate transportation infrastructure.

“Typically port authority owns land and infrastructure, and leases access to that infrastructure to companies that ship goods,” Dunn said.  

Dunn said that in 2019 Kansas State University conducted a study to quantify the feasibility of establishing a facility that would load out shuttle loaders of grain, or dedicated trains of 100 or more cars. 

“The analysis showed that a private-public partnership whereby costs of establishing the facility would be shared would create the most likely scenario for a successful venture,” Dunn said.  “It also showed that there would be local economic benefit through the job creation, additional property tax base, and higher grain prices to local farmers.”

Next step expected is that the port authority board will be appointed and that the plan will be published for comment in the next six to eight weeks, Dunn said.