BURLEY — Legislators from across the state got a glimpse of how people in Mini-Cassia do business when the 2017 Magic Valley Legislative Tour made its first stop on Sept. 11.

Rep. Thyra Stevenson, a Republican from Lewiston, said the tour is always informative and helps legislators from other parts of the state understand the business needs in the area.

“The terrain is so different here,” Stevenson said. “It helps me to be sympathetic to the needs of these different communities.”

The tour, hosted by Twin Falls, Jerome and Mini-Cassia chambers of commerce, kicked off in Rupert on Sunday with optional activities and a reception at the Wilson Theater and, after breakfast on Monday, made stops at DL Evans Bank corporate offices, Watco’s terminal and port services at the company’s business park and McCain Foods.

Watco officials provided a demonstration of its Perishable Express program, which uses a specially designed automated rack — the first of its kind in the rail industry — to load railcars.

The new system cuts the time it takes to load a railcar from about 6 hours to 90 minutes, said Lucas Bellamy, commercial manager for Watco.

The system also reduces product waste due to crushing, Watco site manager Brian Addis said.

Burley is the first test site for the system, Bellamy said.

“It is exciting stuff,” he said.

Customers like Amalgamated Sugar transport truckloads of their product to the facility and they are able to store it or directly load it onto rail cars for shipment.

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Rep. Scott Bedke, a Republican from Oakley, said lawmakers really look forward to the tour each year.

“They are just flabbergasted that this area is the food processing center of the western U.S.,” Bedke said. “That’s something for us to be proud of and to build on.”

Bedke likes when the tour is hosted in the Magic Valley because it gives him a chance to see the area through the other legislator’s eyes.

Clay Handy, owner of Handy Truck Line, said one of the benefits of having a rail terminal in the area is its ability to keep transportation prices stable for companies as fuel prices skyrocket.

Winston Inouye, strategy and customer development manager for Watco said his company can serve customers in a 250-mile radius.

“We’re so thankful that we live in a business friendly state,” Inouye said.

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