Carolyn Hardy admits she pushed hard to get the intermodal container yard that opened this week in Hickory Hill completed faster than the two years many contractors told her it would take.
“Memphis can’t wait for business,” the CEO of Chism Hardy Investments said Monday, Aug. 19, at the formal opening of the Clarke Road Intermodal Center. “Business opportunities wait for no one. Not even me.”
Carolyn Hardy, CEO of Chism Hardy Investments, has taken the family company into the intermodal business with the opening this week of a container maintenance facility in Hickory Hill and work on another facility in the Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park to open next year.
(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)
The 30-acre site already has several dozen intermodal containers and chassis lined up in neat rows at the Container Maintenance Corp. facility. It includes a 10,800-square-foot maintenance shop as well as container and truck storage space.
Construction began last December in an area that is near the Sharp Manufacturing plant and that also includes some residential development bordering the site. Hardy said she pushed for an aggressive schedule for the facility because of the jobs – 84 net new jobs in three years.
Hardy said that kind of development and job production is the contribution business leaders make to the tax base.
“I hear people talking about PILOTs and so on. Even with the PILOT they are going to pay a nice lump sum in taxes,” Hardy said of payment-in-lieu-of-taxes and other economic development tax incentives. “This is an investment in our top line. We have got to improve top line. Yes, we have to raise taxes, but we have to build our top line. … We’re making an investment in ourselves and Memphis, which is increasing our tax base.”
Container Maintenance Corp. is a 42-year-old South Carolina company owned by Marino Group, which is based in Staten Island, N.Y. It began as a trucking company and now does most of its business in the marine and rail sectors, operating both kinds of terminals.
Marino Group CEO Vince Marino said he wanted Memphis as a depot location. The Clarke Road facility is less than a mile from the BNSF intermodal yard.
“The infrastructure, the Class I railroads, an amazing location,” Marino said, listing the reasons for picking Memphis and the Hickory Hill location.
“It promotes good business, which makes it easy to attract good employees. We enter into a whole new chapter here.”
It will be a chapter with two locations, including another intermodal facility still taking shape in the Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park.
Chism Hardy Investments is moving ahead with construction of another intermodal facility in the park, scheduled to open fully in about a year.
That site will have two clients. Container Maintenance will use most of the 33-acre site, with another operator using the remaining 8.5 acres.
“We are looking at expanding our transloading business on Presidents Island, which is a huge opportunity for Memphis,” Hardy said. “It brings freight into Memphis that does not exist today.”
Transloading is transferring a shipment from one type of transportation to another – in this case by rail or barge to truck or vice versa. Hardy picked the site because of the ability and rating of roads in the area to handle heavier truckloads.
The intermodal business is the latest chapter in Hardy’s pro-Memphis approach to business development. It followed her sale of the old Coors Brewery site – which she ran as a bottling company for six years after buying the plant from the beer company she worked for as an executive – to City Brewing Co. LLC for $30 million.
When Blues City Brewery opened at the plant in 2012 and had trouble finding a local workforce, Hardy became involved in a workforce training effort specifically for the plant. It has since become the model for finding local workers for the new Electrolux plant and other economic development projects the city has attracted.
That approach continued with Hardy working to coordinate Industrial Readiness Training at Southwest Tennessee Community College with Container Maintenance Corp.’s opening at the Clarke Road facility. The first class of job applicants finish their courses Labor Day week and go directly to apply with Marino Group for the skilled jobs.
Jeff Browning of Browning Contractors Inc. said the site at 4630 Clarke Road was a challenge because of how thickly wooded it was. Some of the older and taller trees at the edge of the property remain.
Several lakes and ponds that had been a favorite of neighborhood fishermen were drained as well.
“I hated to do it,” Browning said as he talked of giving those around the lake a few last chances to fish.
“I lowered it gradually, a little and then a little bit more,” he said.
By the time the last bit of water was left, Browning said there were no more fish.
Browning is also the contractor on the Pidgeon Park site for Chism Hardy Investments.