Fayette, Marshall Prep for Ambitious Industrial

By Sarah Baker

With Norfolk Southern Corp.’s Memphis Regional Intermodal Terminal now operational in Rossville and a pair of large-scale industrial manufacturing buildings under way in the area, stakeholders say the future is bright for the region.

“For something that’s been talked about for a while, there’s a whole lot going on out there,” said Whitfield Hamilton, partner with Sacramento, Calif.-based Panattoni Development Co.

Norfolk Southern had a soft opening for its $105 million, 380-acre terminal in July, just across the Fayette County line east of Collierville. Hamilton said the yard where containers are transferred between trucks and trains is already up to 8,800 lifts about every 10 days and it’s not fully open yet.

“That’s going to be a very large deal for that railroad and the city that’s serving primarily their Crescent Corridor, going up to the Northeast,” Hamilton said. “So the eastbound traffic coming from the west through Memphis, a big percentage of it will go up through that yard and then up the railroad to the population centers of the Northeast.”

The Norfolk, Va.-based railroad is expecting half the lifts of its entire operation to occur inside the Memphis Regional Intermodal Terminal. When fully operational, the terminal will be able to handle 327,000 shipping containers and trailers annually – and it isn’t visible from any roads.

“When shippers locate near an intermodal facility, it reduces highway miles traveled and makes transportation alternatives more accessible,” said Mike McClellan, Norfolk Southern’s vice president of intermodal and automotive marketing.

Meanwhile, south of Norfolk Southern’s most substantial intermodal terminal to date, Marshall County is emerging with activity. Hamilton started looking in the area two years ago when ASICS American Corp. was looking to locate there. At that time, the main industrial presence in Marshall County was Exel’s 750,000-square-foot distribution center in Chickasaw Trail Industrial Park.

“We chased that ASICS deal, we had a great site in Olive Branch that we owned, and I got my clock cleaned by Marshall County,” Hamilton said. “The site they ended up going to was based on some of the incentives, some of things that we really couldn’t control.”

“There’s just been a lot of pieces to the puzzle that had to be put together to make it all come together, and we feel good about where we’re at.”

–William Adair, Piperton Hills

ASICS is now up and running, as are several other tenants in the 3,600-acre Chickasaw Trail at U.S. 72 and Cayce Road. The momentum in the park has continued with stone wool insulation manufacturer Roxul Inc.’s 1 million-square-foot, $130 million facility that’s recently broken ground on the edge of Wingo Road in Byhalia.

“They’re blowing on going on the grade,” Hamilton said.

Roxul is the North American division of Denmark-based Rockwool International and has been operating in Canada for more than 20 years, but this will be the company’s first manufacturing plant in the U.S.

Also under construction is MCR Safety’s 500,000-square-foot distribution center on 50 acres in Piperton at U.S. 72 and Tenn. 196. Hamilton said the Memphis-based personal protective equipment manufacturer is “tilting walls in their building.”

The site is slated for completion next summer and has expansion capabilities up to 1 million square feet.

Also, infrastructure contracts have been let for the construction of Interstate 269 for both Tennessee and Mississippi. It’s going to tie Goodman Road to Interstate 40 within two years and U.S. 72 to I-40 in 18 months.

“There’s not many places you can go and see a U.S. interstate being constructed, but that’s one of them,” Hamilton said.

William Adair, owner/developer of Piperton Hills, sold and then developed the site for Norfolk Southern. He’s tapped Panattoni and CB Richard Ellis Memphis as partners for Gateway Global Logistics Center, the 1,500-acre light industrial component of Piperton Hills that spans Marshall and Fayette counties and is partially located within the Chickasaw Trail area.

Piperton Hills is a proposed $100 million mixed-use development that Adair envisions to include residential, retail, walkways, charter schools and more. While the 1,500-acre residential component is 10 to 12 years out for full completion, Adair expects next year to “really kick that project off.”

“There’s just been a lot of pieces to the puzzle that had to be put together to make it all come together, and we feel good about where we’re at right now,” Adair said. “Panattoni is talking really strong about several customers they’ve got. After the first of the year, it looks like they’ll be bringing some of those to start building and doing stuff on the industrial side of our properties for next year.”

Andy Cates, executive vice president with Colliers International Memphis, said recently at The Daily News’ commercial real estate seminar that a 1 million-square-foot building with double-sided, 180-foot-deep truck courts on both sides sits on about 60 acres of land. Piperton’s industrial land is 1,500 acres.

“It’s going to take a long time, even in the most robust market to eat up that much land,” Cates said. “I hope there are a lot of projects there, and I think there will be, but it’s going to take awhile.”