Obama Says Stimulus Funds Wooed Shipper Dollars

Obama Says Stimulus Funds Wooed Shipper Dollars

A set of stimulus grants to develop industrial infrastructure, including a rail spur, helped trigger a private firm to make a $650 million investment in a steel rolling mill, said President Obama.

The president May 18 visited the V&M Star tubular steel works at Youngstown, Ohio, and pointed to where stimulus money from last year’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is preparing a nearby industrial park.

“One of those investments is going towards revitalizing the site next door, preparing it for new construction, and building a rail spur that connects to the Norfolk Southern (Railway) line that runs through town,” Obama said.

“And as a result of that investment,” he said, “V&M Star’s parent company has decided to invest $650 million of its own into building a new one million-square-foot mill right here in Youngstown – the largest industrial plant built in the Mahoning Valley since (General Motors) built its plant over in Lordstown in the 1960s.”

The White House explained that two ARRA grants totaling $20 million are going into the adjacent site, administered through Ohio’s Department of Transportation, to develop the town’s Brier Hill Industrial Park as a “shovel ready” site for business use.

An initial $4.37 million grant went into excavating, grading and drainage improvements that are nearly complete. Later this month a contract will be awarded for the next phase, the White House said, which will spend $16.5 million in stimulus funds to build a rail spur and rail marshalling yard for V&M to move freight to the main NS rail line.

V&M will start construction on its new plant in the 2011 fourth quarter, take about 18 months to complete the project and generate 400 construction jobs in the process. Once operational, the new mill is expected to employ 350 people, doubling the company’s Youngstown workforce.

The government’s Recovery.com Web site says the stimulus law has so far given out about $163 billion in tax cuts out of $288 billion in the package, disbursed $127 billion out of $224 billion in entitlement program support, and paid out $102 billion in various grants, loans and contracts out of $275 billion allotted.

That includes $11.9 billion spent so far by the U.S. DOT to reimburse states for money they spent on highways, bridges, airports and transit needs. The DOT has made about $38 billion available to back specific projects, and pays the money once the work is completed.

Other departments and federal agencies are also supporting infrastructure stimulus programs that affect freight transportation, from Department of Commerce spending on industrial parks to Coast Guard renovation of railroad bridges over barging channels.

-- Contact John D. Boyd at jboyd@joc.com.