Saginaw Railway Company Celebrates Growth, Faces Challenges

(photo by Michael Percha)

Expansion and growth are the name of the game at Lake State Railway Company in Saginaw. A short line railway, meaning it operates less than 350 miles of track, the company has expanded its business significantly over the past few years. The company was also named the 2018 Short Line Railway of the Year by Railway Age magazine in March.

Lake State Railway along Washington Avenue operates 290 miles of track in the Great Lakes Bay Region and is a major hub for nearly all rail shipping from northern Michigan and the Thumb. While agricultural products are its primary business, the company has expanded its other freight like lumber, cement, aggregate and more.

Lake State President and CEO John Rickoff credits most of that growth to developing new business.

(l-r) Lake State Railway COO/Executive Vice President Mike Stickel, Congressman John Moolenaar, LSR President/CEO John Rickoff (photo by Michael Percha)

“We worked hard with all the different customers along the line, new customers, to locate facilities on our railroad… All of that development work has turned into the growth that were talking about.”

Rickoff says growth is occurring in every facet of the railroad. However, recent talks of imposing tariffs on foreign trade goods has many businesses, including Lake State Railway, wondering what’s in store for them. Rickoff says the tariffs are having an impact on trade right here at home.

“Particularly on the grain side from this area, soybeans as an export commodity primarily. You have to be know but the threats coming out of China really could impact that business pretty significantly.”

Congressman John Moolenaar of Michigan’s Fourth District recently took a tour a the rail yard. He says the U.S. wants fair trade with its trading partners by renegotiating with them and the U.S. will emerge stronger for it. He calls China one of the worst violators of fair trade.

Rail shipping is also a part of the state’s and country’s infrastructure. It’s no secret roads and bridges around Michigan are in need of repairs and updates. However, Lake State is heavily involved in investing in its own infrastructure. Much of the money the company has seen from its growth has been poured back into maintaining and updating its service lines and facilities, modernizing the system with safety and efficiency in mind. The company also receives about $3,500 per mile of line from a governmental 45G Tax Credit, which must be used. Rickoff says the funds have been a huge help for their business.

To learn more about Lake State Railway, visit their website.

 

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