Scott Fredericksen set out four years ago with the goal to help Archer Daniels Midland Co. better connect its Decatur plants with the country's major railroads to provide enhanced global access for its products.
As the ribbon was cut Thursday to open its intermodal container freight shipping and receiving facility, Fredericksen said ADM has since realized the potential the location has not only to expand its own business but for other companies to take advantage of the opportunities that have been created.
The opening ceremony was held at 3095 E. Parkway Drive amid 250 acres of land at ADM's vast Decatur processing complex, with rail cars and the nearby Caterpillar Inc. facility as a backdrop.
"Ten years from now, I hope we look back to see this as a turning point that ushered in a new wave of growth," said Fredericksen, ADM Transportation president. "We look forward to seeing it reach its full potential."
The project started when ADM bought a Canadian National rail yard with tracks running into its corn processing facility. Norfolk Southern Corp. tracks ran to the soybean processing facilities in ADM's west plant but, without the rail yard, Fredericksen said ADM had difficulty connecting between both railroads.
ADM now has direct access from the ramp to both railroads along with another of the country's seven major railroads, CSX. It continues to have indirect access to the remaining four, Fredericksen said.
Intermodal freight has the potential to be shipped by truck, rail and ship, which means the facility's location near interstates 72, 74, 55 and 57 and U.S. 51 also positions it to deliver efficient access for trucking. ADM operates a transportation network that contains 26,100 rail cars, 700 trucks and 1,500 trailers.
The location provides the ability for shipments in and out of the area to reach markets across the country and around the world, leading to the creation of what is being referred to as the Midwest Inland Port.
ADM ships 68 million metric tons of products by rail each year, including 2 million metric tons of grain that is shipped overseas each month, said Juan Luciano, ADM chief operating officer.
The possibilities for the railroad, however, reach beyond that, Luciano said.
An estimated 17 million intermodal containers are currently used worldwide, Luciano said. Container freight volumes were reported to have increased nearly 10 percent between 2010 and 2012, he said.
The intermodal facility has two high-capacity cranes that can handle 50,000 containers per year, with room to grow to 150,000.
"We believe at ADM we're uniquely positioned to take advantage," Luciano said. "It can connect any product to any market anywhere in the world in an efficient, cost-effective way. We encourage others to seize the opportunities with us."
Other companies can move products in and out of Decatur, said Craig Coil, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur and Macon County. Decatur is less congested than larger nearby cities, Coil said.
The intermodal ramp is seen as the first step in the development of the Midwest Inland Port, Coil said.
"This opens the door to new opportunities," Coil said. "We've been overlooked as a distribution hub. Nobody else has this."
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn sees the opening of the facility as a chance for the Decatur area to improve on its global trade standing. It was recently ranked in the top 25 of cities by Global Trade Magazine.
"This intermodal is a key moment in the economic history of Illinois," Quinn said. "We are right in the center of a great economic opportunity. We have to seize that opportunity."
ADM has made a significant investment in developing the facility, which Quinn said helps expand the exporting ability of the entire state. Construction of the intermodal ramp was funded in part by a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.