The Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority Board of Directors learned about the work being done in relation to a long-running project Wednesday.

Mat Pitsch, executive director of WAIA, provided his board with an update on the WAIA intermodal port project during its meeting at the Ben Geren Safe Shelter in Fort Smith on Wednesday. This project would be located on the Arkansas River at Van Buren.

Pitsch said the intermodal authority is currently working with Union Pacific Railroad, which has a yard just north of where the authority is looking to build the intermodal port. Union Pacific has plans for how they would like to develop some of that land.

"They have a big thing they want to build out there, and we're entering into an economic development thing that they don't want to talk about," Pitsch said. "But we're working with UP on a project that will be part of this."

The intermodal authority, Pitsch said, has been assigned an employee of Union Pacific to work with them.

"They watch what we do for projects because intermodal is multi modes of freight, and one of those will be railroad, and so they're watching what we do and then they'll develop around that," Pitsch said.

Pitsch also provided an update regarding the Louisiana contingency, which Pitsch described as a confidential group of economic development people from Louisiana who want to partner with the intermodal authority. They previously visited the area to look at the site of the intermodal port.

Pitsch said four of the group's representatives would be coming to the area Wednesday night through Friday.

"They're visiting with four major corporations in the northwest Arkansas area about what they'd like to do," Pitsch said. "That's about as deep as I can go, again, because they want their competitive advantage, but some of you will get to see them. Again, it's confidential."

The intermodal authority has been in contact with the people of the Louisiana contingency for about the last month and a half, Pitsch said.

During the Nov. 14 WAIA board meeting, Pitsch read a portion of a letter from the new CEO of Ports America stating it had been bought out by another company, according to minutes from that meeting. Ports America's new management recognizes the six-month memorandum of understanding with the old management team expired, and wishes to continue to work with WAIA when new developments occur. A previous Times Record article states this memorandum of understanding expired Nov. 1.

Pitsch brought up the Ports America buyout during Wednesday's meeting as well.

"Ports America got bought, and the entire team that we worked with, there's only one guy left, and he was the ... accountant guy," Pitsch said. "The top guy, that's the way I'll put it, has a new job working in a new industry, and the last two days, he thinks he has somebody that would like to come talk to us who would be a competitor or of the same magnitude."

The next WAIA board meeting will take place at 11:30 a.m. March 27 at the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, the meeting agenda states.