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July 27, 2105 Las Cruces Sun News Article

By Jason Gibbs jgibbs@lcsun-news.com @fjgwriter on Twitter

A 160-foot fiberglass windmill blade is lowered onto a Santa Teresa Southern Railroad flatbed car in Santa Teresa.

A 160-foot fiberglass windmill blade is lowered onto a Santa Teresa Southern Railroad flatbed car in Santa Teresa. (Jett Loe — Sun-News)

 

LAS CRUCES >> They have been sitting in the southern New Mexico desert for some time, spread out across some 70 acres like gleaming white pieces spilled out of a giant's Erector Set.

Now the gargantuan turbine blades are catching a lift to their final destination in the Midwest to harness the power of the wind.

In all, 288 of the 187-foot-long blades will be carefully loaded onto the Santa Teresa Southern Railroad — a short-line rail service in the Santa Teresa Industrial Park. From there, they will be shipped out via rail over the course of the next few months, wrapping up their journey from their manufacturing source in Mexico, said Arik Kotkowski, business development director for the rail service.

"That is a lot of blades," Kotkowski said of the stored material. "It's a sea of white it's a pretty great project."

It heralds what we will see in ever-increasing numbers as more businesses gravitate to the industrial park to manage the logistics of moving tons of goods and materials through southern Doña Ana County.

This shipment will require a total of eight trains with 36 blades per train. It takes two, 90-foot platforms to carry each blade, he said. The company plans to complete the shipment by October.

Prime location

"The reason we landed this project in Santa Teresa is because of our proximity to Mexico and the availability of rail-served land in the industrial park," Kotkowski said. "In addition, New Mexico is competitive with El Paso due to the lack of inventory tax which makes it more attractive to store these wind blades here long-term in preparation for their move."

The Santa Teresa Southern Railroad, a subsidiary of Ironhorse Resources, Inc. out of O'Fallon, Illinois, was founded by Jeff Baskett, executive vice president of Ironhorse. It also moves other products such as grains, scrap metal and fructose corn syrup. It's a vital cog in the growing staging and shipping logistical support industry that has sprung up in the industrial park following Union Pacific's relocation of their intermodal hub to the area.

"Short-line railroads are essential to local economic development, since we are able to provide daily service to smaller businesses and offer a more customized and specialized rail service than the first-class railroads," Kotkowski said. "However, the first-class railroads are not our competitors, we are partners since upwards of 25 percent of rail business originates or has its final destination on a short-line railroad. They need us to manage these kinds of projects, and we need them for the long haul."

Jerry Pacheco, vice president of the Border Industrial Association, agreed that the short-line was a boon to development in southern Doña Ana County.

"Being able to ship those blades by rail adds to the logistical efficiency," Pacheco said. "It really is an indication of the innovative nature of our industrial base here. It's really indicative of how we are striving to be a global logistics base."

Pacheco said there are several recruiting targets to lure new companies to the industrial park. One is logistical companies that need rail and easy connections to the interstate system via the Pete V. Domenici Highway.

"You are going to see a lot more companies tied to Union Pacific and focused on logistics choose our area in Santa Teresa because it has all the elements modern logistical companies are looking for," Pacheco said.

Kotkowski agreed.

"Our railroad here is an integral part to the future Santa Teresa," he said. "It is a great tool to attract new businesses, create more jobs, and develop our industrial base. Companies that use big and bulky materials — manufacturing, agriculture, oil products and chemicals — or logistics and warehousing companies would benefit from being serviced by a short-line railroad, and we are the only ones in the region that can offer this kind of service."

Pacheco noted that the BIA is constantly seeking to recruit businesses that would benefit from the location and proximity to shipping options. He noted a June write-up in Union Pacific's industry publication touting the region and transportation benefits.

"That's a concerted effort by us to reach out to the companies associated with Union Pacific," Pacheco said. "You don't need to be in California. You need to be here to increase your logistical efficiencies."

Article From Jason Gibbs. May be reached at 575-541-5451.

Fiberglass windmill blades in line to be loaded onto flatbed train cars in Santa Teresa.

Fiberglass windmill blades in line to be loaded onto flatbed train cars in Santa Teresa. (Jett Loe — Sun-News)