Dec. 19–MASSILLON — The former Republic Steel site in the city’s southwest side is gaining steam in the form of a revived industry: railroads.
Republic Short Line has been ramping up its rail car operations this year along its Oberlin Avenue SW headquarters. Garret Kloots, vice president of business development for Republic, said rail traffic has increased five times the amount from when cars began rolling in and out during 2015, averaging about 200 that year and increasing to more than 1,000 in 2017.
“It’s a very good time and start for us. The goal here is to handle big (transport) containers of soybeans or electronics coming in and would be distributed from here,” said Kloots, adding that Republic wants to construct a warehouse in 2018 to store goods and produce destined for facilities in Ohio, across the U.S. and world.
Since 2014, Republic has replaced six miles of railroad tracks, said Kloots, noting that multiple older structures were leveled and many rebuilt to modernize operations with the goal of becoming a rail-line hub.
“We seized an opportunity to take a place with dilapidated buildings and do something with it,” he said.
Republic now has contracts with seven companies for rail traffic, according to Kloots, who said cars are moving in and out of the site an average of three days a week. Grain frequently is transported in by rail to Republic and is stored and sent out to feed mills or commercial operations, he said.
“Some days we’ll have five cars come in, and others there will be 40,” he said.
In October, Deerfield Ag Services constructed four steel silos on about 5 acres of Republic’s 465-acre property. The silos are being used to store soybeans and grain for shipping across the U.S., and in some cases, the products will make their way across the globe to Japan or China.
Plans to store corn and wheat in the silos are also in the works, Kloots confirmed.
Last week, Deerfield loaded 86 rail cars with approximately 300,000 bushels of Ohio soybeans to be transported all over the country, Kloots said. In addition, cement was brought in for temporary storage before moving to redi-mix and block plants in Northeast Ohio.
Republic Short Line is also home to Valley Trucking, servicing flatbeds, tankers, dump trucks and trailers; Tiger Sand & Gravel, a producer of complete gravel, slag and recycled crushed concrete; Tiger Tarps and Liners, which installs semi-truck trailer liners; and Ohio Freight Car Services, a heavy-rail car repair company.
Overall, those five companies employ about 50 people, Kloots said, which is 10 more than in 2016.
Deerfield and First Flare & Repair are independent companies that have locations on Republic property. The two business have a combined 20 workers, Kloots said.
David Maley, the city’s economic development director, said that although he’s not well versed in day-to-day operations at Republic, the business has provided a spark the last two to three years toward local commerce.
“They’re doing a lot of different stuff there and have been innovative for the area,” Maley said.
Short Line’s history
Republic is owned by Steve and Dave DiPietro, who in 2004 bought the 465 acres from Republic Steel and a second section from Massillon Stainless.
For nearly three years, the property has been used as a storage and staging site for the Rover Pipeline, a 711-mile, interstate system that aims to transport 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Utica and Marcellus shales to the Midwest, Great Lakes, Gulf Coast and Canada.
Nearly 700 miles of steel pipe were trucked into Republic since early 2015, and have been moving much of this year via freight to multiple Rover work sites.
“There’s a very small percentage now compared to what was here,” Kloots said.
Reach Steven at 330-775-1134 or at email@example.com.
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