Preliminary engineering and a study soon will begin in Hurt to determine the feasibility of turning the former Klopman Mills site into Virginia’s second inland port — The Southern Virginia Multimodal Park.
As proposed, the feasibility study will be paid for by county partnerships and The Southern Virginia Multimodal Park LLC, not with any money from county taxpayers, according to Pittsylvania County Economic Development Director Matt Rowe.
The former Klopman Mills site has an advantage that may help it to become an inland port — a particular switch on the rail lines.
“It’s hard for things to go east-west because of all the rivers that are blocking the rail lines,” Rowe said. “About a mile north of Hurt is the Hurt Switch on the rail lines, which allows the rail to go east-west, to Norfolk, or to other inland destinations in the Midwest. Hurt could be the door to the outside world for local businesses.”
The memorandum was signed Wednesday by Pittsylvania County, the Virginia Tobacco Commission, the Virginia Port Authority, the town of Hurt and the Southern Virginia Multimodal Park LLC, giving each party its own responsibilities as they work toward the goal of making the site into an inland port.
Per their agreement, the feasibility study must be started by Feb. 15, and completed by July 31, but Rowe said the county is pushing to be done as soon as possible.
Plans for Hurt’s inland port are based on the layout of an inland port in Greer, South Carolina, which would require roughly 50 acres of land for the port, laid directly over the Klopman Mills site. It leaves 750 adjoining acres available for future businesses to build on.
County and state officials toured inland port sites across the East Coast, and found that the port in Greer, South Carolina, was the closest to the layout of what already exists in Hurt. The site in Hurt also already has water and sewer service, and the county is working to get natural gas service there as well.
The only other inland port in Virginia is located in Front Royal, and has attracted the business of distribution centers for companies such as Home Depot, Kohl’s, Rite Aid and Red Bull. The port in Front Royal has more than 30 different companies surrounding it.
The inland port in Greer attracted BMW and Michelin manufacturing plants and distribution centers to the area after opening in late 2013.
“The county has been in touch with other businesses interested in coming to Hurt, if the site is turned into an inland port,” Rowe said. “We have businesses that we feel very confident would utilize that facility — southern Virginia businesses, not including the prospective companies that could be interested.”
The study would not be happening without the help of Dels. Danny Marshall and Les Adams. Marshall presented House Bill 99 during the last session, which requested that the Virginia Secretary of Transportation study the feasibility of adding a second inland port in the Danville-Pittsylvania County-Henry County region.
“We thought we had a good site, and pursued it heavily,” Rowe said. “We’ve been meeting with our delegates and state representatives, and we’ve gotten to the point where we are getting to look at the feasibility of an inland port on the property.”
“The next piece of the puzzle that worked out, is the company that bought that property is in the business of doing inland ports. Just by sheer coincidence, this worked out and the stars were aligned. That’s why the project moved forward,” Marshall said. “It will be a real drawing card for our area. Economic development is a puzzle — you got small pieces of the puzzle and large pieces of the puzzle. This is gonna be a big piece of the puzzle.”