If the Port of Pine Bluff did not exist, businesses like The Strong Company would not function at their maximum potential.
“Our profitability would be severely inhibited if we had to bring in our chief product by truck or rail instead of by barge to Pine Bluff,” says Tim DeJarnette, president of The Strong Company. “We’ve been in business for 55 years and at the port for 41 years."
The Strong Company imports a raw ore mineral, vermiculite, mined in South Africa. The company processes the ore in furnaces and blends it with cement for use in construction applications, such as in-ground swimming pools, deck insulating concrete and various industrial applications.
“All the vermiculite from South Africa eventually arrives in New Orleans where it’s put on barges for transport up the Mississippi River to the Arkansas River and into the Pine Bluff harbor,” DeJarnette says. “We deal with loose, bulk-type material, and our success is contingent on having the lowest possible shipping and handling costs. Being located at the port makes our success possible.”
The company expanded at the port in 1998, when it acquired a 56,000-square-foot building that allowed it to boost output. It also possesses perlite (naturally occurring siliceous rock) from New Mexico and Colorado for other lightweight insulating concretes. And it produces high-strength, corrosive-resistant concretes for the manhole and infrastructure rehabilitation industry.
“Our company continues to grow and thrive, and we hope to do business far into the future at the Port of Pine Bluff,” DeJarnette says.
The first barge commodity transfer terminal constructed on the Arkansas River, the public terminal at the Port of Pine Bluff, opened in the mid-1960s. Today, top commodities loaded and unloaded at the port include wire rods, agricultural fertilizer and grain, steel and metals, bricks, pipe, gravel and sand. Companies that utilize the terminal are diverse and include Sun Gro Horticulture, ArcelorMittal and Tyson Foods.
“The port is ideally situated to support inbound and outbound transfer and storage of a wide range of commodities, and it's a critical component for future growth of our region,” says Mike Murphy, Pine Bluff project manager for Houston-based Kinder Morgan Terminals, which operates the public terminal. “Additionally, we are located in a slack water harbor, which means barges have no river current to manage, and the water elevations will only fluctuate 3-5 feet.”
Features of the terminal include 80,000 square feet of on-site warehouse storage, 250,000 square feet of off-site warehouse storage, 20,000 tons of fertilizer storage and a 300-ton grain storage tank. The harbor offers easy loading and unloading from barge to truck, truck to barge, rail to truck, truck to rail and rail to barge, plus convenient access to major roads and interstates such as I-530, U.S. 63, 65, 79 and 270. Union Pacific rail lines serve the site, with BNSF through reciprocal switching.
“The port acts as an incubator for industries needing competitive transportation costs for large quantities of product,” Murphy says. “We receive and ship products to and from all over the world, and waterborne transportation remains the cheapest means of moving large quantities of products worldwide.”
Murphy adds that the ability of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County to offer this port service remains a key asset in attracting new industry and future growth to the region.
“We feel our service performance is second to none,” he says. “We strive every day to live up to our company’s core principles.”
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