Moving rail spur may aid tenants

The City Center Industrial Park in Watertown. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — A rail spur installed 20 years ago but never used could lead to significant improvements for two major tenants in the city’s industrial park, Roth Industries and Renzi Food Service.

Moving the rail spur in the City Center Industrial Park on South Bellew Avenue is tied to major expansion plans for Renzi and with improving current operations for Roth, said Donald W. Rutherford, CEO of the Watertown Local Development Corp., also known as the Watertown Trust.

Relocating the rail line would help Renzi move forward with a five-year expansion plan that has been stalled because its food distribution center is landlocked, while it would allow for easier access for shipments into the manufacturing plant at Roth Industries.

“It’s truly a great solution for both companies,” he said.

Michael A. Lumbis, the city’s planning and community development director, and Mr. Rutherford made a presentation to the City Council on Tuesday night about the plans.

They discussed how moving the rail line that would run parallel to Rail Drive would benefit both companies in the sprawling industrial center.

Mr. Rutherford has been working on the complicated project since last spring when a Roth official called him to see whether the rail spur could be repaired for the company to use. The next day, a representative from Renzi inquired about purchasing some city-owned land so the expansion could proceed, he recalled.

It would make it easier for Roth to get rosin from the rail spur to its mold-blowing equipment instead of trucking into its plant. The project also would create a second entrance into the Renzi property for its truck fleet and the 300-plus employees.

“We’ve been working on this for a while,” Mr. Lumbis said.

The rail line was installed in 2000 for a business that never ended up coming to Watertown, Mr. Rutherford said.

In a series of land swaps, the project involves working with the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency because the IDA owns the rail spur and the land that it sits on, Mr. Lumbis said. The city also would transfer land from the city to Renzi and for Renzi to obtain some city-owned land.

The rail spur project would need to go through the city Planning Board site plan approval process and get a green light from the City Council.

About three years ago, Roth Industries completed a nearly $6 million project to install mold-blower equipment that allows the company to expand its plastics manufacturing. That project retained 24 jobs.

A billion-dollar company headquartered in Germany, the local plant manufactures double-walled plastic oil storage tanks, construction barriers and monitoring controls for radiant heaters.

Roth, a family-owned business established in Germany more than 60 years ago, has 1,100 employees and locations in more than 40 countries. Roth entered the North American market in 1997 and then moved to Watertown from Rhode Island 15 years ago, partly because of its proximity to Canada.

Renzi — one of the largest broadline food distribution companies in upstate New York — has a 100,000-square-foot facility on its 21-acre site at 901 Rail Drive in the industrial park.

The industrial park currently has seven tenants.

Representatives of Renzi and Roth Industries did not attend Tuesday night’s council meeting and could not be reached for comment.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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