Potash warehouse could be online in late 2014

2013-04-19T17:00:00Z 2013-04-20T15:18:04Z Potash warehouse could be online in late 2014By Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

The building of Potash Corp.'s new transfer facility in Hammond has been delayed, but the Canadian company remains firmly committed to the project, having spent $12 million at the site already, a top Potash Corp. executive said Friday.

In addition, another $20 million already has been spent on new tracks for the facility, where more than 1,000 Potash rail cars per month are transferring loads to other rail cars going to destinations as far away as Florida.

"We are very proud of this facility," Potash Senior Director of Transportation and Distribution David Ostertag told an audience of 210 people Thursday at Dynasty Banquets. "We want it to be a showcase facility."

The company ran into unexpected problems with the stability of soils in the area, but design adjustments will be made if needed, he said.

Construction of the transfer facility could begin in July and should continue through the end of 2014, Ostertag said. That would make it ready for the spring planting season in 2015. The potash that will be shipped though the facility is a key ingredient in fertilizer.

In all, $75 million is being invested in the warehouse, locomotive repair shop, offices and new tracks on the south side of Indiana Harbor Belt Railway's Gibson Yard, Ostertag said.

Ostertag described the facility as keynote speaker and later a panelist at Rail Junction 2013, an event hosted by the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce and the Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Potash Corp. and the city of Hammond originally expected the transfer facility to be complete by early 2014. The project was first formally announced at Hammond city hall in November 2011.

Ostertag also answered a question about any dangers involved in the new facility in light of the disastrous explosion of a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, this week.

Ostertag said the Hammond facility will be handling potash only, which is a stable product. A different key fertilizer ingredient, nitrogen, is generally associated with explosions at fertilizer facilities.

About 50 to 100 trucks per day could be pulling in and out of the Hammond transfer facility at the busiest seasons, Ostertag said.

Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said he considers the project as a key to revitalizing Summer Street, with the Potash facility located just off of Hump Road. Demolition of the abandoned Glidden Paint factory was made possible by the Potash deal, McDermott said.

"We were always aware we were competing with other states and we had a lot of obstacles to overcome," McDermott said of the year of planning and negotiations it took to land the plant.

Construction of the mammoth facility – the warehouse alone will be more than two football fields long – will create 225 construction jobs, McDermott said.

Potash Corp. started with a list of more than 40 sites around the U.S. before narrowing it down to 12 that were given serious consideration, Ostertag said.

The transfer facility will not be a big employer. It will have five full-time employees and perhaps a number of part-time employees during the busiest seasons, Ostertag said. But the facility is also employing Indiana Harbor Belt employees and is one of a number of projects expanding rail capacity and employment in the region.

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