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Rail park being considered for New Richmond

Two prospective industries for New Richmond have expressed an interest in having railroad service to their proposed new buildings.

The only trouble is that constructing a railroad spur to service new businesses is an expensive proposition and city officials don't know where the money would come from.

The Economic Development Commission discussed the issue at its regular meeting April 9.

Robert Barbian, director of planning and community development for New Richmond, said the city is studying two potential sites for a new industrial park served by rail. One is on the west side of town, the other on the east.

Initial cost estimates for a rail spur are about $650,000, Barbian reported.

Even if a tax increment financing district is established for a new rail park, Barbian said, the added cost for the railroad service is often prohibitive.

"It takes quite a bit of tax base to pay for it," he said. "If you don't have a lot of tax base, it doesn't work."

Barbian called the discussion about a new industrial park served by rail "very preliminary" but it was a discussion that needed to begin.

"Does a rail park in New Richmond make sense for this community?" he asked.

Commission members were provided with map of the potential sites for a new industrial park.

There was also some discussion about extending rail service to county-owned land north of Highway 64.

But Barbian said any proposal to construct a rail park on that side of the highway would be too costly, due to the need for a tunnel or bridge for safety reasons.

In other business:

• The commission heard a report from 3-D Strategies, the consulting firm hired by the city to conduct a marketing campaign to promote the community's industrial and commercial opportunities. The firm is being paid $15,000 to conduct promotional efforts over a six-month period.

Emily Matchey, co-owner of 3-D Strategies, said the marketing campaign will begin with a postcard sent to business prospects in Minnesota and Wisconsin later this spring.

Once the postcards are mailed, 3-D will follow up with phone calls to gauge the interest of businesses looking to expand or move to New Richmond.

The marketing campaign is occurring at a good time, Matchey said.

"Spring always brings back renewed hope," she said. "Things have really changed. There's optimism out there and things are definitely more positive."

With the marketing campaign, Barbian said the city hopes to develop a prospect list of about 10 businesses willing to consider building in New Richmond.

Two additional marketing campaigns -- one in the summer and one in the fall -- will attempt to grow the prospect list even further.

"I don't think people expect there will be this great surge of businesses coming to New Richmond," Barbian said. "But we hope that eventually, when they decide to build, they'll think about New Richmond."

• The commission recommended that the city sell eight acres of land to Liquid Waste Technologies (LWT), across the street from its current plant, for a potential future expansion. Under the recommendation, the land would be made available to LWT if they construct the new facility by 2011.