Rail, air and water: Local business leaders talk transportation

Metro-east businesses have options in choosing how to transport freight in and out of the region.

On Friday, local business leaders will resume an ongoing conversation about this at a workshop where they will further network and analyze how rail, air and water transportation can better serve their needs. The 2009 MidAmerica Multimodal Series will be held 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel in Collinsville. It is the second gathering of the four-part forum, which MidAmerica St. Louis Airport and Tri-City Regional Port District initiated earlier this year.

Airport Executive Director Tim Cantwell said that the initial workshop focused on air and rail transportation in the region. He said the upcoming event will continue to look at rail and how the waterway can enhance the freight transportation outlook for 2020.

"We saw it as a need to collate all industries for instructional use of all modes of transportation available in metro-east, especially here with international freights being our big interest," Cantwell said. "We felt the best way to do that is to have all modes of transportation that lift and carry freight together."

Bob Wydra, executive director of the Tri-City Regional Port District in Granite City, said the forum will continue strategic planning for the region's industrial sector.

"We are always trying to get a better handle on where we are and where are we going," Wydra said. "It is geared to bring people together in the business."

Cantwell said that six major railroads run through the metro-east and the Mississippi River has created a major inland port in the region. He said the first workshop focused on MidAmerica St. Louis Airport's role. He said the airport has been receiving planes with flowers, vegetables and herbs from South America and sending dry products from Asia to Latin America.

"Air cargo is what we're geared to," he said. "We're not geared to the international passenger. We're geared to international freight."

He also said that river transportation is critical to air hubs like the airport.

"You would think that if it doesn't fly, it floats," he said. "If it floats, it's usually what logistics managers likely will use over air and surface. They like to have products in the same area. Considering our presentation as an inland port, it is much better than saying we're just a river port. We're learning how it shares international interest."

"This event will be a great opportunity to gain insight on how a more perfect union between freight modes can lead to an increased customer base and greater profits," Wydra said.

The workshop will feature presentations by representatives from the Union Pacific Railroad Co., Werner Enterprises, Ingram Barge Co., Port of New Orleans, Terminal Railroad Association, Colliers Turley Martin Tucker, Lewis & Clark Marine Inc., AEP River Operations and Stock Transport.

Registration is $25 per person, and lunch is included. The last day to register is today. Call 452-8440 for more information.