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Rotarians hear plans for new regional logistics center
Plum Creek Timber Co. Inc. Manager of Real Estate Allison Megrath was introduced Monday by Rotary Club of Jacksonville member Michael Biagini.
Club Executive Director Cherri Ohmer and club member Joshua Ashby.
A logistics center located near Lake City was the topic of discussion Monday for the Rotary Club of Jacksonville.

Allison Megrath, manager of real estate for Plum Creek Timber Co. Inc., is the project manager for the North Florida Intermodal Park in Columbia County.

She said Plum Creek plans to develop a site along U.S. 90 into a mixed-use district that has been since 2011 part of Jaxport's Foreign Trade Zone. The designation allows goods to be landed, handled, reconfigured and then re-exported without having to go through the U.S. Customs process.

Megrath said Seattle-based Plum Creek owns 6.9 million acres of land in 19 states. The company owns 520,000 acres of timberland in 21 counties in Florida.

The intermodal park development in Columbia County will begin on a 500-acre site designated as a North Central Florida Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern Catalyst project.

Through a partnership between Columbia County, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and Enterprise Florida Inc., the park will serve as an inland port to handle truck and train freight coming out of Jaxport.

Plans are to develop as much as 8 million square feet of industrial space, 100,000 square feet of commercial space and 300 dwelling units on the site.

Megrath said available Class 1 rail service from CSX Corp. and Norfolk Southern Corp. combined with proximity to Lake City Gateway Airport, a former U.S. Navy base with an 8,000-foot runway, make the site attractive to myriad shipping interests.

For the project, Plum Creek has entered into a partnership with the Rockefeller Group, developers of Rockefeller Center in New York City and 5 million square feet of other industrial development.

Megrath said Rockefeller Group created the first Foreign Trade Zone in the United States and has established relationship with major shippers including General Mills, FedEx and Crate & Barrel.

One of the challenges involved in developing an intermodal facility in a rural area is access to a qualified workforce. Megrath said the Columbia County site will draw workers from Florida Gateway College in Lake City, which has a logistics degree program similar to that offered by the University of North Florida. In addition, she said, Lake City's Columbia High School is a Global Logistics Career Academy that trains students for higher education and careers in the logistics field.

"High school students can be certified to drive a forklift when they graduate," said Megrath.

Monday marked the club's final business meeting of 2013. Five new board members and a president-elect-elect were approved by the members.

John Fryer, retired U.S. Air Force major general and former superintendent of Duval County Public Schools, was elected the club's president for 2015-16. He will succeed Pierre Allaire, who will follow incumbent club President Bill Mason July 1 for the 2014-15 Rotary year.

Elected to the club's board of directors were Asok Chaudhuri, Pat Coleman, Traci Jenks, Julie Lamey and Susan Main.

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