New products shore up port as business softens

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By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

Steel arrives for Tell City Boat Works' first barge; stevedores make quick work of briquettes

TELL CITY - A company's desire to buy up front the steel Tell City Boat Works will use to build it a barge and the quick offloading of a new product could bring new business to the Perry County Port Authority and Hoosier Southern Railroad.

Stephen George, marketing director for the port-rail agency, said during a July 17 regular meeting of its board of directors 15 or 16 rail cars of five-eighths-inch plate steel had been offloaded.

"This is a good little piece of business for us," he told the board, explaining the steel was previously shipped to Hawesville, Ky., then trucked to Corn Island. "We've shown Ipsco (Steel) we can do the job."

Discussions with representatives of Tell City Boat Works, a new company opening at the Port of Tell City site of the port authority, Corn Island and Ipsco Steel led to the advance-purchase agreement, George said. Spencer County businessman Don Foertsch, whose family owns Corn Island Shipyard west of Troy, said in December, as he pursued efforts to open a new barge-building operation at the port, he already had customers lined up.

Magnesium oxide arrives

George also reported the first barge of magnesium oxide had arrived. Dick Neumann, vice president and chief executive officer for the port authority, reported last month the material, which resembles charcoal briquettes and is used in blast furnaces and steel mills, was to begin moving through the port this month to mills in northern Indiana.

Workers surprise customer

New Hope Dock, a company that provides stevedore services at the Tell City port, was able to offload the barge in eight hours, versus the one-and-a-half to four days the Pennsylvania customer expected.

"The guy was pretty impressed," George said. "They had the rail cars filled, too."

Another bargeload of magnesium oxide is expected every two or three weeks, he explained. "We have a commitment for a specific number of barges, but hope that will expand."

New business is welcome as realities of the national economy hit home. Waupaca Foundry, one of the port-rail agency's main customers, will be on a four-days-per-week operation for the near future, Neumann said. "We've also seen the cancellation of one coal and four pig-iron barges," he said. "It's the first time we've seen barges pulled back (after leaving their embarkation ports)."

Schweizer Fest train rides

In other business, Neumann reported approximately half of the tickets for train rides being offered during Tell City's sesquicentennial Schweizer Fest celebration had been sold. Board member Bill Goffinet noted that many of the people who will take the rides won't arrive until the celebration begins.

Goffinet reported he'd talked to Cannelton Mayor Smokey Graves and a representative of the Indiana Department of Transportation about a plan to improve part of River Road. The project would give trucks access to the port from Indiana 66, diverting that traffic from Tell City.

Coordinating efforts

Talks with the Cannelton mayor are necessary because the portion of River Road eyed for improvement is within that city's borders, Goffinet said. He explained an application for funding "has to go in under someone's name; it would be best to use the county's, but they don't own the road."

The port board hopes to incorporate turning or deceleration lanes for the River Road project into an INDOT plan to improve Indiana 66 from southern Tell City to the Ohio River bridge in Cannelton.