By the BF Staff
From the March/April 2022 Issue
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
That might be a good way to summarize what has taken place in the logistics industry, an area that has been battered by some well-publicized slowdowns in recent times. Despite these and other challenges, logistics hubs have managed to keep the flow of products moving across the country over the last two years, thanks, in large part, to a vast network of well-situated locations and ample supplies of expertise, innovation, and adaptability.
During this time, cities and counties expanded their capabilities, built modern projects, and mobilized their well-prepared workforces to ensure that goods moved from place to place.
This year’s Top Logistics Hubs, selected by the Business Facilities editorial board, demonstrated that whether it was the pandemic, supply disruptions, or a tight labor market nothing was going to stand in the way of people receiving the products they ordered.
Here (in alphabetical order) are the Top Logistics Hubs:
Arizona Commerce Authority
President and CEO
Its southwest location and 130,000 miles of highway enable Arizona to provide access to more than 85 million consumers within a day’s drive. The state also offers access to six border ports of entry with Mexico, convenient access to air travel with 12 commercial and 71 reliever airports, the Port of Tucson–a full-service inland port and rail yard offering more than 1.7 million square feet of amenities–and SkyBridge Arizona, the nation’s first air cargo hub to house both U.S. and Mexican customs officials. This service at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport enables e-commerce companies and manufacturers to transport goods between Mexico and Latin America in an efficient and cost-effective way.
“With modern transportation infrastructure, a streamlined regulatory environment, affordable operating costs, access to top talent, and close proximity to some of the world’s biggest markets, Arizona has become the premier place for logistics,” said Sandra Watson, president and CEO of Arizona Commerce Authority.
While Arizona might suggest hot weather, Watson said the state’s reliable climate serves distributors, with 300 days of sunshine a year, little exposure to natural disasters, and one of the nation’s most reliable electrical grids.
Global supply chains have shifted their focus toward the U.S., Watson said, and leading international distributors are flocking to the state. Arizona’s trade, transportation, and logistics industry supports nearly 600,000 jobs, with 43,000 more industry jobs than pre-pandemic. Logistics and warehousing operations including Mark Anthony Brewing, Red Bull, Andersen Corporation, Meyer Distributing, Amazon, Kroger, The RealReal, and Williams Sonoma have recently expanded within Arizona.
Metro Atlanta Chamber
Senior Vice President of Project and Partner Development, Economic Development
The logistics industry in Atlanta has experienced significant growth since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been an increased demand for fulfillment center space to support e-commerce operations and last mile delivery. The industrial real estate sector has been booming with space requirements. “Local communities are working with the real estate development community to develop new industrial space to accommodate the growth of the region,” said Gregg Simon, senior vice president of project and partner development, economic development, for the Metro Atlanta Chamber.
As a convener in the 29-county region, the Metro Atlanta Chamber works with partners that include Georgia Department of Economic Development and Georgia Power to provide businesses a variety of services. These include the ability to assess the area’s labor pool, evaluate land and building real estate options, understand state and local financial incentives, and connect new businesses to resources in the community.
The Georgia Department of Transportation continues to make major investments in roads and bridges throughout the state, including major investments in Metro Atlanta such as new express lanes that include both High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, reversible lanes, and reconstruction of many of the area’s choke points. Also, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) remains the world’s busiest airport and serves as a critical air cargo hub.
Simon noted that Metro Atlanta is one of the fastest growing regions in the U.S. “We are the ninth largest metro region in the country with just over six million people,” he said. “This population growth supports our skilled, diverse and growing labor pool.”
Charleston County, SC
Charleston County Economic Development
Located in a region crisscrossed by 41,000 miles of state-maintained highways and more than 2,000 miles of rail lines, Charleston County, SC, represents a strategic location for movement of goods. Its world-class deep-water port, growing international airport, and easily accessible ground transportation make it well prepared to serve a variety of business needs. In addition to transportation, the area offers a vibrant ecosystem of logistics providers as well as warehouse and distribution options.
As a top 10 US container port, South Carolina Ports Authority serves as a vital economic engine for the state. It has invested more than $2 billion in port infrastructure in recent years, including the 2021 opening of Phase One of the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal, the only new greenfield container terminal to open in the US since 2009. Looking ahead, South Carolina Ports will initiate construction on the Navy Base Intermodal Facility and inner harbor barge infrastructure project. The rail-served intermodal container yard will connect to the Leatherman Terminal via a dedicated road to efficiently move cargo to and from the Port of Charleston. The barge project is supported by infrastructure at both Wando Welch Terminal and Leatherman Terminal.
With the global supply chain continuing to see strain from handling unprecedented amounts of cargo, South Carolina Ports invested strategically in port infrastructure and deployed creative solutions to keep freight moving for customers. “Charleston is a very strong market and more companies are wanting to locate near the Port of Charleston,” said Steve Dykes, executive director of Charleston County Economic Development. “There are multiple strategically located industrial sites and buildings available for manufacturing, warehousing and distribution operations.”
World Business Chicago
Director, Business Development
In a region at the nation’s crossroads, Chicago serves as an important transfer point between the east and west coasts. Chicago is the third largest intermodal system globally, linking together a collection of Class I railroads, interstate highways, international airports, and established waterways to lead the nation in freight handling. Chicago is often recognized as having one of the best transportation, distribution, and logistics (TDL) ecosystems in the world and ranked as the top city for transportation and warehousing in the US The TDL business ecosystem consists of nearly 16,000 companies that decided to invest in Chicago.
Chicago officials are making sure the future TDL workforce is skilled and diverse. Olive-Harvey College, part of the City Colleges of Chicago network, has a state-of-the-art 103,000 square-foot transportation, distribution and logistics center that includes an on-site central store warehouse that supplies city colleges, a third-party logistics training center, automotive and diesel engine laboratories, TDL classes, and a variety of other programs. Last year, Chicago saw the opening of Aviation Institute of Maintenance, an aviation maintenance education facility that represents a step toward educating and employing people from underrepresented communities and getting them into the TDL industry.
With the largest amount of industrial space in the US and the second largest transportation workforce, Chicago keeps critical products moving. The city also has a diverse class of TDL founders and entrepreneurs. Over the past two years, local logistics technology companies have seen 400% growth in capital investment, for a total of $865 million in 2021. Both public and private organizations are focused on driving inclusive economic growth and expansion in transportation technology.
Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade
Manager, Strategy and Analytics of Global Business Development
A robust infrastructure and central location helps Colorado offer easy access for companies that need to move products. Several large-scale infrastructure projects are currently in progress in Colorado. The main trucking corridors of I-25 and I-70 are both under expansion in the Denver Metro region and throughout the state. Denver International Airport is halfway through a 39-gate expansion that will increase capacity by 30%. Projects in early development include an Amtrak Front Range line that the company proposed in April 2021 and a hyperloop system that Switzerland-based Swiss Pod Technologies announced at the end of 2021. A joint venture with the Transportation Technology Center will develop a hyperloop testing facility in Pueblo.
Logistics: Break-Out Hubs
Located in South Central Oklahoma between Oklahoma City and Dallas, Ardmore offers exceptional access to North American markets via I-35 and BNSF Railroad. Additionally, the Ardmore Industrial Airpark offers significant advantages for air cargo, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), and transload opportunities to companies serving the US, Canada, Mexico and Central American markets.
Last year, Ardmore officials announced a $124 million plan to transform the Ardmore Industrial Airpark into an international multimodal logistics facility, the Global Transportation and Industrial Park (GTIP). The project is a result of a partnership among the City of Ardmore, the Ardmore Development Authority, WP Global Holdings, Watco Companies, and the Chickasaw Nation.
“It’s a great example of our approach to economic development as it demonstrates the teamwork required to compete for new jobs and capital investments in the 21st century,” said Bill Murphy, president and CEO of the Ardmore Development Authority.
In the energy sector, Ardmore announced a major project with the H2OK facility, a liquid hydrogen plant being developed by Australia-based Woodside Energy. It will result in the first green hydrogen plant in Oklahoma, and the facility will serve markets throughout the Central and Southwest parts of the U.S.
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
With its north-central location, Minnesota provides easy access to markets across the continent and abroad. Shipping is convenient with eight commercial ports, including four on Lake Superior and four on the Mississippi River.
Over 50% of the U.S. population is within a day’s truck drive. Minnesota has three major interstate highways (I-35, I-94 and I-90) and the fifth largest road system in the nation to facilitate surface transportation.
The state has 4,420 miles of freight-railroad operated by 21 companies. Four Class 1 freight rail lines and 3,500 Class 1 rail miles integrate Minnesota with the U.S. and Canadian rail systems. BNSF, Canadian Pacific, Union Pacific and Canadian National Rail all operate intermodal facilities in Minnesota. Industry moves one-fourth of its freight by rail in Minnesota.
The state is home to 18 Fortune 500 companies, including 3M, General Mills, Land O’Lakes, Hormel Foods, Polaris Industries, Target, Cargill, C.H. Robinson and Toro. Minnesota offers commercial air service in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul as well as Duluth, Rochester and six other cities across the state.
In 2021, the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport was ranked third best in North America by J.D. Power.
Mississippi Development Authority
Mississippi is a multimodal hub for the global logistics sector. The state handles $322 billion and 457 million tons in freight flow annually and ranks in the top 10 states in job concentration for general warehousing, specialized freight trucking, and pipeline transportation. The state offers close access to five high-volume freight shipping airports, easy access to freight service from five Class I railroads, and 15 public coastal and inland ports. One recent development is The North Harbor Drainage Improvements and Rail Access Project, which consists of engineering, design and construction of a new intermodal container transfer facility at the Port of Gulfport. The project links an existing container terminal to an existing adjacent rail spur.
There are several efforts to supply a talent pipeline. The University of Southern Mississippi’s degree programs in logistics, trade, and transportation prepare students for careers in global supply chain management. Mississippi Valley State University’s FedEx Logistics training facility prepares students for careers in professional logistical management and customs brokerage. Delta State University uses 19 training aircraft, three flight simulators, and two 15,000-square-foot hangars to prepare students for careers in aviation logistics. Mississippi’s community colleges provide training and certification for students seeking careers in commercial truck driving.
The logistics industry employs approximately 215,000 workers across Colorado. In 2021 there were about 5,000 companies generating $19 billion in sales in the state. The state has a talent pool with strong employment concentrations in commuter rail systems, air transportation and airport operations, and pipeline transportation of natural gas.
The transportation, warehousing, and utilities sector of Colorado’s economy were the quickest to recover from the initial downturn caused by COVID-19, exceeding its February 2020 employment level in September of that year and is now more than 10% larger than prior levels. When the supply chain disruptions occurred last year, Colorado, as an inland area with a strong concentration of air transportation, captured additional traffic as distributors, importers, exporters and other freight movers sought ways to avoid containerized shipping and other modes that became difficult or even impossible to affordably access.
Equidistant from the east and west coasts, Houston is just hours by air from any metropolitan area in the country. Houston’s infrastructure includes two international airports, four deep water seaports, a mainline railroad system and an expansive highway system.
Several recent investments are helping the region strengthen its connection to global and domestic markets. To increase container and break-bulk cargo capacity, more than $2 billion in investment is planned for container terminals at the Port of Houston. This includes a $1.1 billion expansion of the Houston Ship Channel currently underway, a project that involves widening and deepening the waterway to ensure the region is keeping up with current and future demand for international trade. In July 2021, the Port of Houston reported a record 297,621 cargo TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), an increase of 27% compared to July 2020, and an increase from the previous record set in March 2021.
The airport system is anticipating the addition of 24 gates in the coming years, and the $1.3 billion Terminal Redevelopment Program at George Bush International Airport (IAH) is expected to be completed by 2024. Similar infrastructure improvements are happening at Hobby Airport to upgrade the travel experience for millions of people.
In 2021, the Houston region recorded the largest job growth in its history with nearly 152,000 jobs created. Several sectors added 10,000 or more jobs last year, including 14,800 jobs in transportation and warehousing, a record high. The forecast calls for Houston to add 6,500 transportation jobs in the coming year. To support the increased need for qualified talent in the industry, the Greater Houston Partnership developed UpSkill Houston, a workforce development program.
Greater Memphis Chamber
Chief Economic Development Officer
As the world headquarters of FedEx, Memphis provides the centerpiece in distribution and delivery operations worldwide. Memphis offers five R’s, with the first four being the modalities of runways, roads, river, and rail. The city has the busiest cargo airport in the world. More trucks pass through Memphis than anywhere else in Tennessee. The Port of Memphis on the Mississippi River is the fifth largest inland port in the US. All five Class 1 railroads have significant operations there.
“We know we can get anything in the world overnight to anyone,” said Ted Townsend, chief economic development officer for the Greater Memphis Chamber. “That’s a huge strength, and we are historically recognized for that.”
The fifth R is research. In 2021, the University of Memphis, the state’s second largest public university, was named an R1 institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, putting the U of M in the top tier of research universities nationally. The city also has a technology-skilled and diverse workforce. “We are a majority minority city,” Townsend said. “We have a population that boasts the largest percentage of black tech talent in the nation, at 25%. When you include Hispanics that number becomes greater. We also lead the nation for the percentage share of IT jobs held by women.”
Memphis has the nation’s lowest costs for distribution, at 11% less than average peer cities, and real estate costs are lower too. The city has been a logistics leader for decades, and the number of area jobs related to logistics increased 14.5% from 2015 to 2020, outpacing the national growth rate of 7%.
City of Norfolk, Virginia
Jared M. Chalk
Director of Development
Centrally located on the east coast of the U.S., the Hampton Roads region is a coastal area in Virginia. Norfolk, one of cities in the region, is within a two-day drive of 75% of the U.S. population and only 2.5 hours to open sea. The region is served by I-64, the major east/west highway system connecting the east coast to the Mississippi River corridor, and is less than one hour from the north/south I-85 and I-95. For air service, Norfolk International (ORF) and Newport News/Williamsburg (PHF) airports provide service for approximately four million passengers annually. Norfolk International is also an air cargo hub, with two air cargo terminals with a total of 88,000 square feet of space for processing.
The Port of Virginia is served by nearly 30 international shipping line services that offer direct access to more than 90 foreign ports. Six terminals comprise the port and operate on a combined 1,864 acres, including four deep water terminals. As the only east coast port with authorization for 55-foot channels, The Port of Virginia boasts deep shipping channels, no height restrictions, and double-stack rail service with two Class 1 railroads, CSX and Norfolk Southern. The Port of Virginia’s current projects include expanding rail capacity at Norfolk International Terminals (NIT), deepening the Norfolk Harbor to at least 55 feet deep, and optimizing and modernizing the North Berth at NIT. The total value of these projects is more than $1 billion.
Hampton Roads has a workforce of approximately 850,000, is home to every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, and has the largest concentration of college students in Virginia, with more than 100,000 individuals enrolled across the region’s 33 universities, colleges, and trade schools.
North Texas: Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex
Dallas is an important intermodal hub, offering a less congested and more efficient transfer point for imported goods. The area is served by three Class 1 railroads: BNSF Railway, Union Pacific (UP) and Kansas City Southern (KCS). There are also several major highways nearby, such as I-20, the primary east-west trucking corridor, and I-35, the NAFTA Trade corridor.
Fort Worth, TX
City of Fort Worth
Director of Economic Development
Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the U.S. and Fort Worth is the 13th largest city in the U.S. Fort Worth is home to DFW International Airport, and Alliance Airport (AFW), a gateway to the North Texas region. AFW offers air cargo, government and corporate aviation and serves as the foundation of the AllianceTexas corridor, a 27,000-acre master-planned industrial, mixed-use and residential community. The Alliance area contains more than 68 million square feet of industrial facilities, and its location makes Fort Worth a global intermodal hub, with logistics infrastructure in place for air, rail, and highway transport.
Also in the region, the AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone (MIZ) offers logistics entrepreneurs an opportunity to test their vehicles in real-world conditions before going to market. Companies located in the MIZ have recently been focusing on autonomous vehicles. To help companies overcome the global supply chain challenges, Fort Worth is currently helping onshore the production of materials that are critical to the nation’s infrastructure.
Irving-Las Colinas, TX
Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce and Irving Economic Development Partnership
Beth A. Bowman
President and CEO
Located in the center of North Texas, Irving is close to DFW International Airport and Dallas Love Field. Two major transit-oriented developments, Water Street and Hidden Ridge, which feature Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) light-rail stations, provide direct connectivity from DFW International Airport into Irving-Las Colinas and on to Downtown Dallas. With six DART light-rail stations currently and a seventh deferred, Irving-Las Colinas offers its residents and its workforce easy access to the region and beyond.
Employers in the market have access to 3.3 million skilled workers within a 30-minute commute, though competition for workers is strong. The Dallas-Fort Worth market has consistently grown by an average of 350 to 400 people a day for several years. Irving-Las Colinas is experiencing high construction activity of industrial/flex space, including over 6.6 million square feet of net absorption since January of 2020. Irving has 46.7 million square feet of industrial/flex inventory and a low vacancy rate of 2.9%.
Orlando Economic Partnership
Vice President, Business Development
While most view Orlando as a tourist destination, it is also Florida’s most connected city. Orlando has been in the business of moving people and products for a long time, welcoming more than 75 million visitors each year. As a quinti-modal hub, the Orlando region accelerates connectivity options via road, sea, air, rail and even space. Orlando is located at the crossroads of Florida’s highway network, providing a centralized location with easy access to the U.S. Southeast and South America. Within a two-hour drive, Orlando provides access to a fast-growing population of more than 8.5 million, four major deep-water ports, nine international airports and the only US deep space human launch center.
Orlando is looking to the future, and more than $10 billion is being invested in the region’s transportation system. These investments include the $9 million investment to improve roads around the Intermodal Logistics Center in Polk County, service to Miami via highspeed rail Brightline that will open in 2023, the expanding SunRail commuter line and I-4 improvement project. With over a half-million higher education students enrolled within a 100-mile radius of Orlando, local technical schools including Valencia College, Seminole State University, Orange Technical College, Osceola Technical College (oTECH) and Polk State College are producing a significant workforce for the transportation logistics sector.
More than 1,540 logistics companies choose to locate their logistics and distribution centers in Orlando. Industry leaders including Amazon, Publix, Walgreens, CVS and more have logistics and distribution operations in the Central Florida region.