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Published July 26, 2013, 08:55 AM

ENERGY: BNSF expands regional presence

Bismarck office focuses on economic development across Dakotas, Minnesota

By: Kylie Blanchard, Prairie Business Magazine

BNSF Railway Co. recently opened a new economic development office in Bismarck, N.D., expanding the company’s presence in the state and giving BNSF the ability to better serve existing and new customers across the region.

“Adding an economic development office in North Dakota helps us continue strong relationships with state and local economic development partners across the region, as well as create new opportunities to support economic growth,” says Amy McBeth, BNSF Railway spokesperson.

She says an office in Bismarck now allows the railroad’s employees to offer additional on-the-ground assistance and allows staff to work closely with economic development groups in helping them consider the best transportation options for a variety of projects.

The Bismarck office will promote economic development in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Since 2010, BNSF has been instrumental in locating over 100 new or expanded facilities in these three states, as well as creating more than 900 jobs and providing more than $700 million in investments.

The company has also made significant investments in the railroad infrastructure in the region. “In these states combined, we plan to invest more than $350 million on infrastructure this year,” McBeth says. “This is a private investment in our network to serve our customers. This allows us to add sidings and extend sidings, and expand tracks in our yards, among other work. These investments benefit all of our customers and all segments of our business in the region.”

In North Dakota alone, BNSF employs more than 1,500 people, hiring more than 400 individuals in the last two years to fill existing and new positions. McBeth says the company expects to hire an additional 300 employees in the state over the coming year. The handful of employees housed in the new Bismarck office includes sales, marketing and economic development staff.

BNSF handles nearly 2 million carloads in North Dakota each year and has experienced rapid growth in the transportation of crude oil by rail. Currently, the company hauls more than 50 percent of the total Bakken crude production in the state. However, agricultural transportation remained the company’s largest business in the state in 2012. PB

Kylie Blanchard

Contributing writer