Within a Few Years, Glacier Rail Park Now Full

Northern Plastics purchases last 10 acres of rail-served industrial park

By Maggie Dresser
Glacier Rail Park in Kalispell on May 13, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Roughly three years after the first tenants began moving into the Glacier Rail Park, the industrial park with rail service is now completely full after Northern Plastics became the final purchaser with plans to start development of its new facility in the near future.

Northern Plastics originally purchased 4 acres from Flathead County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) and Montana West Economic Development (MWED), who owned the property, and is about to close on an additional 6 acres, giving the company 10 acres of rail-served property with access to transload services.

“Their business, according to (the owner), is just booming,” MWED President and CEO Jerry Meerkatz said. “They are really just going gangbusters.”

The final purchase brings the 44-acre Glacier Rail Park dream to fruition with all the lots sold within a few years.

“We’re delighted that, in such a short time, we closed out all of the available rail-served properties in the park,” Meerkatz said. “With Northern Plastics building out both of their operations, I think it’s going to transform the park.”

Working in collaboration with FCEDA and MWED, the City of Kalispell received a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant in 2015 to clean up the former gravel park and build infrastructure for the rail-served industrial park with the intention of incentivizing private investors to develop in the area.

By 2018, CHS Kalispell began development and moved into the rail park in 2019 to become the first tenant. Northwest Drywall moved into Glacier Rail Park shortly after.

Back in 2016, when Meerkatz first began working on the Glacier Rail Park project, he said there wasn’t much demand for rail-served properties. But as the Flathead Valley continues to grow, he’s now seeing a growing interest and he’s received several inquiries from businesses, both local and in Canada.

“The fact that there’s been so much money and time and effort put into this rail park, people are interested in rail service once they see how nicely it’s built,” Meerkatz said.

As part of the Kalispell Core and Rail Redevelopment project, the Parkline Trail is also underway. The multiuse trail will extend through the city along the railroad tracks, which will be ripped out this summer when construction begins.

Additionally as part of the project, the Kalispell Opportunity Zone was formed, which covers a 30-acre horseshoe-shaped area of vacant and under-utilized properties around downtown Kalispell.

Those properties have gradually been purchased and developed since the project began, with businesses ranging from breweries to retail to housing.

Meerkatz says two of those properties are set to close in June, and local developer Mick Ruis has plans for the former CHS property that include a mix of commercial and residential use. The historic grain elevators will remain onsite.

Between Glacier Rail Park, the Parkline Trail and the Kalispell Opportunity Zone, Meerkatz says the northern end of Kalispell’s core area is starting to gain its own identity as economic development grows there.

“There are some really great years ahead of us for the next two to five years,” Meerkatz said.

“It’s a great economic development story,” he added.