Collaborative Effort Brings Florida Company to East Chicago, IN

Collaborative Effort Brings Florida Company to East Chicago, IN

A collaborative effort between a local industrial real estate firm and several state/local entities recently helped a Florida rail company establish their first location in Indiana.

Jacksonville, Florida-based Patriot Rail Company LLC, worked with Commercial Advantage, Inc. of Merrillville to acquire the assets and former location of United Transportation Group (UTG) at 1150 E. 145th Street in East Chicago, IN.

Patriot Rail manages 12 short line railroads in 14 different states and serves a diverse array of industry clients. The company’s newly upgraded East Chicago facility, now known as Lakeshore Railcar Services, is a 34-acre, full-service, logistics support complex that will have rail tank car and tanker truck washes, transloading, truck/trailer mechanical repair, maintenance, hazardous materials (HM) testing, and waste water treatment services.

During the company’s purchasing phase, several hurdles were posed to prolong the process – namely centering on environmental compliance concerns. But the collaborative efforts of the Northwest Indiana Forum & the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) provided Patriot Rail with guidance and information that supported the project and helped keep the purchasing agreement from further delays.

“Lakeshore Railcar Services has different processes than the previous owners of the property performed. So, they needed the environmental permits modified,” said Don Wagener, Industrial Broker/VP with Commercial Advantage. “The company did a great job of making sure they had everything consistent with their required practices prior to completing the transaction and taking over operations.”

“If it wasn’t for the accurate information we received from the NWI Forum, who connected us with the right people at the IEDC, IDEM, and EPA, this project might not have moved forward as well as it did,” Wagener said.

Lori Tubbs, President of Commercial Advantage, said, “This is a huge win for East Chicago and Indiana. On both the local and state levels, we’ve shown that we’re an area that can work together and achieve great results. I’d like to commend Patriot Rail, the NWI Forum, IDEM, and IEDC for all of their hard work.”

Kay Nelson, Director of Environmental Affairs with the NWI Forum, described the Forum’s role in the project as being that of an informative liaison. She said, “This particular project was a little trickier than most, but Patriot Rail saw the value of the site and made a great effort to make sure all requirements were met.”

Several factors played into Patriot Rail’s decision to invest in East Chicago.  The site is located only 20 miles south of downtown Chicago, IL and is strategically connected and adjacent to the largest rail hub in North America. The facility also features an additional 12 acres of undeveloped land which will allow for future expansion that could create between 20-30 new jobs over the next 24-36 months.

The specific dollar amount of the investment was not disclosed, but Patriot Rail did say that a large portion of capital was spent to upgrade the facility to meet Patriot Rail’s specific safety standards, as well as to ensure ongoing compliance with federal and state regulatory agencies.

“Though working with government officials can often be challenging, our team had the full cooperation of both the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the EPA,” said Patriot Rail President and CEO, John Fenton. “We found Indiana to be a very business-friendly state and were encouraged by the close collaboration and support we received from officials.  Without this assistance, we would not have been able to get the operation up and running so quickly.”