Wood and Steel: Norfolk Southern supports new sawmill operation from site selection to first shipment

First carloads for IFG moving on Norfolk Southern rail.

Wood and steel have always gone together, after all, it’s the wooden railroad ties that hold up the steel tracks. 2020 offered another opportunity to combine the forces of wood and steel when Norfolk Southern embarked on a transformative project with Idaho Forest Group (IFG). Together, a partnership emerged to establish a sawmill in Lamar County, Mississippi.

Norfolk Southern’s partnership with the Mississippi Development Authority, Area Development Partnership, and local officials to support IFG is a prime example of how critical collaboration is to shared success. The venture marked a significant initial investment, and as a result of the collaboration, the company added almost 200 new jobs in the region. Last month, Norfolk Southern moved its very first carloads for IFG, and several Norfolk Southern railroaders were on hand to mark the milestone.

Norfolk Southern and IFG employees onsite at IFG’s operation. Industrial Development (Daniel Parker), Marketing (Michael Ratcliff), LSS (Darryl Strozier and Lindy Pope), Field Sales (Tyler Preast), Transportation (Andrew Jeffers, Roger Thompson, Brian Glebe, and Steve Ellis), Customer Logistics (Denise Swiderek and Angela Daniels).

“Our team was on the frontlines with our local and state partners from the early stages of the company’s search to the build out of rail for their supply chain needs, and to the shipment of their first carloads,” said VP Real Estate and Business Development Kathleen Smith. “That’s the quality of comprehensive service we provide at Norfolk Southern, and we look forward to contributing to the success of this operation as carloads begin.”

The IFG project highlighted the power of cross-collaboration within Norfolk Southern, and the use of a wide range of tools, from internal technology to physical assets, showcased Norfolk Southern's commitment to comprehensive service. Various business groups, including Industrial Development, Industrial Products, Operations, MW&S, Strategic Planning, Field Sales, and Customer Logistics, worked together to provide a customer-centric and operations-driven solution for IFG.

“Norfolk Southern’s product is service, and our service goes beyond the track,” Smith added. “As evidenced by the many Norfolk Southern team members involved in this project, our entire organization is united, and we are working to build even greater resiliency, capacity, and reliability into our supply chain offerings to yield smart, sustainable growth. I’m proud of the work that we do to support quality economic development projects – like Idaho Forest Group’s lumber mill in Mississippi.”

The partnership between Norfolk Southern, its economic development partners, and Idaho Forest Group illustrates the pivotal role of rail in promoting smart, sustainable growth for customers and the American economy. IFG's growth in North American and international markets signals a promising future for this collaboration. In fact, IFG's selection of this location could make them one of Norfolk Southern’s largest customers in the dimensional lumber franchise as operations ramp up.