Vale officials see potential development opportunities with short line railroad

Vale Mayor Tom Vialpando believes finding a way to link economic development to rail service will be key for future prosperity. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

VALE – When Vale Mayor Tom Vialpando looks at the rail lines that slice through town, he sees opportunity.

“There is no reason Vale can’t get a little bit of the share of the rail and possibilities of rail,” said Vialpando.

Vialpando said he wants to leverage several pieces of property near the rail line to spark economic development.

The tracks are part of a short line now owned by Jaguar, a transportation and logistics firm based in Joplin, Missouri.

Jaguar bought the short line from The Western Group last fall.

The short line used to run to Burns but that stretch was abandoned in the early 1990s. Now, the railroad operates about 25 miles of track between Ontario and EP Minerals west of Vale.

Vialpando said he is discussing with Snake River Economic Development Alliance and Jaguar the potential for property in Vale along the rail line.

Vialpando said last week he and Vale City Manager Todd Fuller, along with Kit Kamo and Kristen Kristen Nieskens from the development alliance and Jaguar officials met in town recently to consider developments.

Doug Story, vice president of commercial development, is an eager partner in those ambitions.

“We are extremely interested in growing business along the line and extremely interested in working with the city of Vale,” said Story.

Kamo said there are two sites in Vale that could be used for industry. Both are within the city urban growth boundary and have been identified by the state as suitable to rezone for industry from their current designation for farming.

One property is a 117-acre chunk of land owned by Farmers Fresh Mushrooms, a Canadian company that once planned to build a facility on the site.

 Those plans fell through in 2018 with no activity on the land.

A second industrial site, about 100 acres privately owned, is west of town along Graham Boulevard next to the rail line.

Vialpando said there are also a few small lots inside Vale that could be used for industrial development next to the rail line.

“There are two adjacent lots next to the American Legion. They are open and sit right next to the rail and would be ideal for, say, loading docks,” said Vialpando.

The Farmers Fresh land is prime for development because it is “very close to sewer and water,” said Kamo.

The second piece of land on Graham Boulevard is not as close to city’s water and sewer hookup so would be “a little harder to develop,” said Kamo.

Both properties, though, are “very desirable,” said Kamo.

“They have access to a major highway and they also have rail access,” said Kamo.

Kamo said her agency receives numerous inquiries from companies that want rail transportation.

“We are working with a couple of different projects that require rail. That is true on both sides of the river. Most of those projects want access to a short line because it is easier to get their product in and out,” said Kamo.

Kamo said there are also several businesses locally that want to expand and use rail.

Vialpando said he is “open to anything.”

Nieskens said the good news is Jaguar is “very motivated” to help economic development along its line.

The biggest challenge, she said, is finding the right fit for the property.

“When you talk about workforce and special needs of different projects, it is harder than you think,” said Nieskens.

Vialpando said he optimistic about the city’s economic development future.

“Anything is possible,” said Vialpando.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]


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