Fresh off a record year for earnings, one of America’s largest freight railroad networks is looking to grow.
Fort Worth-based BNSF Railway says investments from its customers totaled around $1.5 billion last year—the 11th year in a row where companies’ and economic development organizations’ investments in BNSF have topped more than $1 billion—leading to the creation of thousands of new jobs.
“The success of BNSF’s rail development program is a result of our employees working with our customers to build unique supply chain solutions that fit their distinctive needs.” said Chris Danos, assistant VP of economic development at BNSF, in a statement. “Flexibility is the key to helping our customers maximize their investments, saving them development costs, and expediting their speed to market.”
1,700 new jobs created
According to BNSF, the largest investments in new or expanded facilities came from The Gatorade Company, Mark Anthony Brewing, and Northern Metal Recycling.
The Gatorade Company invested in warehouse and distribution center capabilities at its Kansas City operations, where it co-located with BNSF, creating about 200 new jobs.
Mark Anthony, the maker of White Claw Hard Seltzer, invested $450 million to build a facility in Arizona to produce the beverage and create around 300 new jobs.
And Northern Metal invested $75 million for a new scrap metal-handling facility in Minnesota, creating 90 new jobs. With those and other investments, BNSF said more than 1,700 new jobs were created in 2021.
“Every year through our capital plan, we work to ensure we’re able to continue to operate a safe and efficient rail network, provide our customers with the level of service they have come to expect from BNSF, as well as position ourselves for future growth opportunities,” said Katie Farmer, BNSF president and CEO, in the statement.
Laying new track and expanding AllianceTexas facility
Those investments come as the Berkshire Hathaway-owned company has unveiled its $3.55 billion investment plan for 2022, which is largely aimed at adding efficiencies and growing its network of more than 32,000 track miles across 28 states. The plan’s largest portion—$2.71 billion—will go toward maintaining, upgrading, and replacing track infrastructure.
$580 million will go toward adding new track to support increased train capacity. And $259 million will go towards the acquisition of new freight cars and other equipment. BNSF is also planning to expand its intermodal facility at the AllianceTexas development in Fort Worth.
BNSF has been looking to increase capacity and resiliency in the supply chain, recently acquiring Montana Rail Link, the operator of a 900-mile stretch of track that acts as an important connector to the Pacific Northwest for the company.
Warren Buffet: ‘an indispensable asset for America’
The company aims to keep momentum going after a banner year in 2021, which saw BNSF trains carry 535 million tons of cargo over 143 million miles, according to Berkshire Chairman Warren Buffet. Last year, the company saw its revenue increase 11.6% to $22.5 billion. That’s due to an increase in shipment volume across all of its focus sectors, which include consumer products, industrial products, coal, and agriculture. The largest share of freight revenues, 38%, came from consumer products, reflecting the rise of e-commerce amid the pandemic. According to Trains.com, BNSF led the Class I railroad industry in rail volume, with traffic increasing by 7.4% from 2020.
“BNSF, our third Giant, continues to be the number one artery of American commerce, which makes it an indispensable asset for America,” Buffet wrote in this year’s letter to Berkshire shareholders.
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