Freight Railroads Run $162 Million into Economy

Article excerpt

Oklahoma's freight railroads contributed $162 million directly to the state economy in 1999 through wages and retirement benefits to current and former railroad workers in the state, according to the figures released Tuesday by the Association of American Railroads.

Payrolls for the estimated 1,791 active Oklahoma freight railroad employees totaled $96 million in 1999. Oklahoma railroad employees are near the top of the U.S. wage scale, with average individual earnings of $53,800 plus fringe benefits averaging another $18,000. The railroad retirement system, which is separate from Social Security, paid $66 million in retirement benefits to 5,968 Oklahoma railroad retirees and their families in 1999.

During 1999, Oklahoma ranked 15th in the United States with 20 freight railroads 20 operating within the state, 17th in the total number of rail miles with 3,358 and 13th in rail traffic with 200.8 million tons carried within the state.

Railroads originated a total of 19.2 million tons of freight traffic in Oklahoma in 1999. Nonmetallic minerals -- mainly crushed rock, gravel and sand -- were the top commodity originated in 1999, accounting for 7.3 million tons, or 38 percent of total rail tons originated in Oklahoma. Other top commodities originated by Oklahoma railroads in 1999 include chemicals, 2.6 million tons, and farm products, 2.5 million tons.

Oklahoma railroads also terminated 30.6 million tons of freight in 1999, including 18.2 million tons of coal, 2 million tons of lumber or wood products, and 1.9 million tons of farm products.

Casino planned in Shawnee

An Oklahoma company has been selected to construct and manage a 38,000-square-foot Indian casino in Shawnee, Sac and Fox Nation officials said Tuesday.

The Sac and Fox Governing Council has selected Premier Assets Inc. of Oklahoma City for the project. It will be the largest Indian tribal gaming center in the state, tribal officials say.

It will be built in three phases on 16 acres of land near the intersection of Interstate 40 and Oklahoma 18.

The $3.5 million casino will offer bingo, machine gaming, blackjack and off-track betting. It will also include a restaurant.

The second phase calls for a travel plaza, a convenience store, a smokeshop and a fast-food restaurant.

The final phase of the development will include a hotel and a convention center.

OKC's first Wingstop

Wingstop Restaurants has opened its first Oklahoma City location at 3631 NW 39th St.

Kofi and Vyonne Kyerematen are new owner-operators of the Wingstop. Former owners of a sandwich shop in Plano, Texas, Kofi Kyerematen said they learned of the franchise opportunity from a friend who knew the owner of two Wingstop restaurants in Dallas. "Once we tried the food, we were hooked," he said.

Jim Deering, president of Wingstop, said the Oklahoma City store is the 25th to open in the last 30 months. Another 42 stores are under development in Texas, Missouri, Louisiana, Colorado, Alabama, Georgia, and Oklahoma. The company plans to continue on its accelerated track until it reaches a national presence, Deering said.

"The first day we were open a lot of curious diners wandered in," said Vyonne Kyerematen. "The second day got busier and the third day we were packed.

Wingstop is a Dallas-based franchise operation. The restaurant offers a nostalgic, aviation-themed atmosphere where the sole focus is chicken wings with eight flavors offered. Customers can also choose from a variety of beers, soft drinks, and side dishes including bourbon-baked beans, seasoned fries, pearl potato salad, vegetable sticks, rolls, and assorted dipping sauces.

Largent may resign early

U.S. Rep. Steve Largent, R-Okla., could resign in the middle of his present congressional term if he decides to run for governor.

While Largent sees that as an option, he told the Tulsa World's Washington bureau that a decision on whether to leave Congress early would not be made for a while. …