Inland Port becoming more than a 'Field of Dreams'

Inland Port becoming more than a 'Field of Dreams'

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The pieces for the Midwest Inland Port in Decatur are starting to come together. Not all of the pieces are in place for the concept to reach its full potential, but Decatur is in a position that some say makes other communities envious. With its transportation infrastructure, Decatur has something every community wants, said Mark Schweitzer, Archer Daniels Midland Co. managing director of intermodal and international freight. Transportation has become part of risk management for every company, Schweitzer said.

“As that happens, they look for solutions like right here in Decatur,” Schweitzer said. “I wish my hometown had this. What you have is something special with the highways and railroads.”

ADM, along with the Economic Development Corportation of Decatur and Macon County and other community partners, are trying to leverage Decatur's unique position, especially being at the intersection of three Class I railroads and five major highways nearby, to establish the port as a significant transportation hub. Having two railroads nearby is common for places across the country, but Schweitzer said three is exceptionally rare. ADM's intermodal facility provides the ability to connect between the railroads, Schweitzer said. It currently uses two tracks with the ability to expand by four more as the facility increases in use, he said.

Decatur Airport is included in the port concept. The reality is the airport has lost much of its passenger service, Schweitzer said. But it's an important piece of developing the port and adding more manufacturers, he said. The airport can become valuable because of its capability to handle large aircraft, Schweitzer said.

Support has been gathering for the port since it was officially unveiled last year, with a $500,000 grant announced this week from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and Illinois Department of Transportation to fund a transportation study for the area. The port has the ability to really take off, and businesses across the area have started to realize the opportunity that it provides. As more businesses utilize what is available, Schweitzer hopes the idea becomes contagious.

“It's real,” Schweitzer said. “It's not a 'Field of Dreams.' I can't stress that enough.”

The idea has already evolved to a point nobody had ever dreamt possible, Schweitzer said. Greater Decatur Chamber of Commerce President Mirinda Rothrock said developing the Midwest Inland Port will only continue to make the community stronger. The intermodal facility is built and operating at a record pace each month, Schweitzer said. The possibilities do seem to be endless and the type of development Decatur needs if other dreams such as attracting more desireable retailers are to become reality.

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