Brown: Rail merger will help fuel economic growth

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This column was published in the Boston Herald.

By Robert Brown

Dependable infrastructure is an unsung hero of our everyday lives. From water to power to transportation, we rely on infrastructure 24 hours a day in ways most of us rarely pause to notice.

In the fuel services business, I’m witness to critical infrastructure in action every single day. I know how important it is to ensure our infrastructure is resilient, that it’s reliable, and that it enables us — consumers and businesses alike — to not just survive but to thrive and reach our full potential.

In New England, one example of this critical infrastructure is the rail network that helps to power our lives. We move people, products and resources — like heating oil — by rail to take advantage of the benefits it provides us today but also because it helps to position companies like mine for future growth.

We have an opportunity to help our region’s railroad system excel in our near future. That opportunity is the proposed merger of Pan Am with CSX, a national, class one railroad that brings with it substantial resources and a stellar track record for investing in and improving the systems it operates. I’m more than happy to support this merger because I believe we should always work to improve the infrastructure we rely on, and this proposal is a timely opportunity to do just that — and to do so with private investment that will bring benefits to all New Englanders.

My company, Broco Oil, has enjoyed a productive and effective relationship with Pan Am over the years. They’ve helped us meet our customers’ demand, helped our business grow, and helped countless others to do the same. For us, rail has been a cost-effective option when it comes to shipping products like biodiesel, and we’ve been able to pass those cost savings on to our customers. I’m grateful for this partnership, and I believe that CSX will help us derive even more benefits — and savings — from rail transport.

The energy business can be unpredictable. Factors beyond our control can create surges in demand, put pressure on supply and more. When that happens, exceptional infrastructure can help us weather the storm. A class one railroad like CSX is a perfect example of a company that has top tier infrastructure available to meet customers’ needs — a fact I can attest to firsthand.

Last winter, when a cold snap stretched the power grid to its limits in places like Texas, many of my customers were worried about maintaining access to products like propane, heating oil and biodiesel they needed to keep their businesses running smoothly.

Against a backdrop of nationwide strain on resources and pipeline capacity, Pan Am and CSX stepped up and helped me ship in 100,000 gallons of propane from as far away as Oklahoma. They went above and beyond to help me help my customers, and if this merger is approved, I would expect that kind of service will only become more prevalent for businesses like mine and countless others.

I built my business from the ground up after I left the Navy, and I’ve taken pride in our team’s willingness to tackle tough jobs — including deploying around the country to help with disaster response during tough times, repairing infrastructure and helping to ensure fuel can flow to where it’s needed. I’ve seen what can happen when infrastructure isn’t working at its best, and I know that companies like CSX are among the best in the business at maintaining the services we depend upon.

I’m hopeful that this merger will soon enable us to strengthen the infrastructure we all depend on every day to ensure we are prepared and well-positioned to tackle whatever challenges Mother Nature throws our way in the future.

Robert Brown is president of Broco Oil based in Haverhill and is a local fire captain and U.S. Navy Seabee veteran. Brown runs the company together with his wife, Angela.

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