Study: Adding rail line could help bring jobs

VIENNA – The extension of a rail line into the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport would create a new economic development asset that could help attract and keep area businesses and also might boost aviation-related activities at the airport, according to a consultant’s study released Wednesday by the airport.

Airport Director of Aviation Dan Dickten released the ”Rail and Transloading Feasibility Analysis” conducted by Silverlode Consulting Corp. and commissioned for about $30,000 by the board that oversees the airport and the Trumbull County Engineer’s Office.

The potential for the rail extension is being explored largely due to the growing oil and gas businesses, Dickten said.

”The spur would cross over a lot of properties in Vienna and we are hoping it will end on the airport property,” Dickten said.

While the Western Reserve Port Authority and Trumbull engineer’s office called on the consultants help assess whether rail lines would be needed to help ground transport materials and products from airport cargo carriers, the study did indicate that “air-rail linkages are unlikely.”

Analysts go on to suggest, however, that there are other advantages to developing the rail including its trigger of increased industrial development near the airport.

”The extension of a rail line to the (Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport) site that could offer transloading services to the emerging oil and gas industry to Trumbull County and the study region, appears to be a feasible option for expanded industrial development of the YWRA site. …,” according to the study.

Port Authority Executive Director Rose Ann DeLeon said the study really is analyzing the opportunity for economic development on the large tracts of available land around the airport.

”We know with the oil and gas industry, there is going to be a lot of needs,” DeLeon said. And while she realizes there is rail potential at Lordstown’s Ohio Commerce Center and at Castlo in Struthers, she said there probably will be additional need.

”This is really a planning initiative rather than a true development that we are going to undertake right away,” DeLeon said. “In the end, it’s about economic development.”

Companies specifically dealing in machinery, petroleum and coal products, chemicals, paper and primary metals are listed in the study as the best industry sectors to target for development in the area of the airport. With the exception of paper production, all are in the oil and natural gas supply chain, the study says.

”With a strong manufacturing base and resource-rich geographic location, the study region has the potential to capitalize on development opportunities in the oil and gas supply chain,” the study noted.

Silverlode projected in addition to an estimated 83 construction jobs to build the estimated $10 million rail line, the new infrastructure ultimately could lead to another 105 direct, full-time jobs.

Using what are described as conservative estimates, the consultants projected permanent jobs would be in areas of a rail operator, transloading service provider, oil and gas support services company and a sand distributor. Large quantities of specialized sand is used in the natural gas hydraulic fracturing process.

Included in the 105 projected jobs, were 50 job estimates for yard workers and construction of a pipeline that also would culminate on the port property.

Dickten said he was hopeful the study would be favorable to the idea, but cautioned that it is very preliminary.