Rail-car business eyeing commerce center discussed during LDA meeting

Theron Larkins, Special to The County
9 years ago

LIMESTONE, Maine — The Loring Development Authority held their regular board of trustees meeting on Oct. 15, 2014 to discuss a number of changes and updates to the board.
The meeting began with the announcement of a new board member, Dana Saucier, of Wallagrass. Saucier attended his first official meeting on Wednesday, as he replaced longtime board member and former board secretary David King of Limestone.

President and CEO of LDA Carl Flora explained that Saucier has a background in the forest products industry and he will bring a business-minded perspective to the board.
The departure of King meant the LDA board would need to appoint a new secretary for the board. A motion was approved to name board member Carol Bell of Presque Isle to the secretary position.
Next on the agenda, Tom Clowes, LDA treasurer and chair of the finance committee, presented the LDA 2014 fiscal year audit report, which was accepted on Oct. 7.
“The LDA finance committee met today with Timothy Poitras, CPA of Chester M. Kearney, to review the independent auditor’s report on the LDA financial statements,” said Clowes. “The audit report consists of a ‘clean’ or unmodified opinion that, based on the audit performed, the financial statements are free from material misstatement. No deficiencies in internal controls were noted, and the report included an opinion indicating compliance with standards for major federal programs under OMB Circular A-133.”
The finance committee voted unanimously to approve the fiscal year 2014 financial statements and independent auditor’s report by the full LDA board, and accordingly, it was recommended by Clowes that the board vote to accept and approve the statements and report from Oct. 7. The finance committee’s recommendation was accepted unanimously.
During his president’s report, Flora provided an update on some of the future prospects the LDA board is currently involved with. At the top of the list was the Norinco rail car project, which Flora explained is moving forward.
“Sui Ping, Marco Chen and Mark Cheung visited Loring last week to discuss the progress being made by the company in its efforts to develop designs that will incorporate new safety standards being considered by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Association of American Railways,” said Flora. “Since the regulations have not yet been adopted, this is something of a moving target. Once the standards are known and designs are finalized, a rail car built to the new specifications will be manufactured in China and shipped to the U.S. for testing by AAR at the Colorado testing facility.”
Flora added that once approval of the rail car is secured, production of new cars can begin.
“Norinco has viewed Loring’s DC hangar and is considering that facility for Phase 1 of its manufacturing operations,” said Flora. “An entirely new facility in Loring’s Nosedock area is envisioned for Phase 2,” said Flora.
“The delegation also met with Robert Dorsey of Aroostook Partnership for Progress and Alain Ouellette of Northern Maine Development Commission to discuss economic development incentives and worker training. Finally, the group met with Commissioner George Gervais and Brian Whitney of the Department of Economic and Community Development, as well as John Butera to discuss ways the state could facilitate and support the project,” Flora added.
Flora added that right now Norinco is involved in a “sort of dance” with the U.S. DOT, while they wait for new safety standards to be finalized.
“The new standards still must be adopted, so as soon as that happens, Norinco will have their engineers begin making adjustments to their manufacturing process,” said Flora. “All this is going to take time, depending on how long before the new safety standards are announced, another 5-8 months to manufacture a rail car and test it before getting the stamp of approval from AAR.”
Flora explained that Phase 1 will be performed while utilizing the existing facility at Loring. Phase 2 will require the construction of a new facility, which Norinco plans to build in the 350-400 acres that make up Loring’s Nosedock area.
“This area is already pretty well developed and already covered with concrete. It is the area where the B-52 planes were previously stored,” Flora added. “That area offers a perfect solution for Norinco’s rail car manufacturing project.”
When asked what he expected as far as an approximate timeline for when Norinco will be able to begin producing rail cars at Loring, Flora explained that the answer to that still depends a great deal on when the safety standards are finalized, however, Flora did throw out the estimate that Phase 1 will likely take one year, while Phase 2 would take between 18 months to two years.
The next LDA board of trustees meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015.