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From Small Towns to Global Markets: How Freight Rail Drives Economic Growth « Back to Search Results

Nearly 150 years after the Golden Spike in Promontory Summit, Utah, completed this nation’s first transcontinental railroad, America’s freight railroad industry remains an emblem of innovation and a foundation for economic growth.

In fact, a recent study by Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute found that U.S. freight railroads helped spur nearly $274 billion of economic activity and supported almost 1.5 million American jobs in 2014. This included $88 billion in wages and close to $33 billion in tax revenue—more than the annual tax receipts of 30 states.

Within the United States, freight rail’s consistent and strategic spending buoys once-stagnant desert towns like Santa Teresa, New Mexico, and quietly and efficiently serves the millions of people in a metropolis like Chicago. Meanwhile, Southern Florida has become a buzzing gateway to the global economy in part because of freight rail’s unique capabilities.

An infusion of cash, jobs in New Mexico

When Union Pacific Railroad decided to build a $400 million terminal in Santa Teresa, freight rail brought its first delivery: Jobs. About 1,600 of them. Today the terminal is complete, and more than 600 newly created permanent jobs remain a windfall for this town of 4,200. Additionally, nearly a dozen new businesses have sprung up near the terminal—from Penny’s Diner serving hungry rail workers, to ERO Resources, which maintains and repairs trucks chassis and containers. State officials estimate that the Santa Teresa rail terminal added more than $470 million to the New Mexico economy during the construction period alone.

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