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BNSF Railway Co. yesterday held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new BNSF Logistics Center in Sweetwater, Texas, that will target the energy sector.The $28 million project also calls for upgrading a yard in Sweetwater and bolstering mainline infrastructure in the area, including 40,000 feet of new track and improvements to a branch line serving central Texas.To open in summer 2014, the logistics center is designed to meet the growing supply-chain needs of a strong energy corridor across Texas for many energy-related commodities, such as frac sand, aggregate, pipe, clay, barite and other drilling materials in the Permian Basin and Cline Shale, BNSF officials said in a press release, adding that the facility will also support growing agricultural product traffic.The project "is an investment in the rebirth of the energy industry in west Texas and of a retired, 75-acre BNSF rail yard," said Dave Garin, BNSF's group vice president-industrial products. "Our objective with Sweetwater is to meet our customers' expectations and offer expanded capacity where growth is occurring for energy and agriculture."The center will enhance the area's agricultural transportation capacity through a collaboration with grain shipper Cape & Son, which is expanding its operations to accommodate unit trains as part of the new development, BNSF officials said. Some existing track will be realigned to accommodate the loading of grain unit trains."The efficiencies of shipping 110-car unit trains of agricultural commodities to and from our Sweetwater facility will provide regional cotton, grain and livestock producers with access to more competitive markets," said Cape and Son President Geoff Haney.BNSF also held a ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday to open a new economic development office in Billings, Mont., which is the headquarters for the railroad's Montana Division.The railroad employs more than 2,200 people in Montana and expects to hire 250 this year to fill new and existing positions.“The railroad enables Montana’s abundant natural resources to reach world markets. Adding an economic development office here significantly increases our capacity to support these outstanding state and local programs, and to more fully realize the substantial economic growth potential in Montana," said Vann Cunningham, BNSF's assistant vice president of economic development, in a press release.BNSF handles nearly 2 million carloads in Montana each year. Since 2010, the railroad's economic development efforts have led to 41 new or expanding facilities in the state, creating more than 320 jobs.
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