May 2013 | Commentary | EcoDev

Northeast Florida: America’s Logistics Center Drives Global Business

Tags: Economic Development, Site Selection, Supply Chain Management, Transportation Infrastructure

Michael Breen is Senior Director of International Department, JAXUSA Partnership, 904-366-6682

Thanks to its strong transportation infrastructure system, the Northeast Florida region is on a solid trajectory for increased international trade, as well as logistics and supply chain management investments and employment.

Dubbed "America's Logistics Center," Northeast Florida is one of the only centrally located East Coast regions offering all four pillars of logistics: rail, air, maritime, and highway. Three major railroads—CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Florida East Coast Railway—use Jacksonville as a railroad hub/interchange, and three major interstates—I-95, I-10, and I-75—connect the area with every part of the country.

As the gateway to Florida and the Southeastern United States, Northeast Florida's seven-county region is attractive to logistics and supply chain companies. One major factor is that the entire Southeastern market—with more than 50 million consumers—is accessible within an eight-hour drive.

The area's efficient utilities and state-of-the-art telecommunications infrastructure with competitive operating costs appeal to businesses, as do its skilled workforce and available land.

One of the biggest drivers of the area's increased manufacturing, logistics, and distribution growth is Jacksonville's port, JAXPORT. An on-dock rail facility was recently completed at the Dames Point terminal, enabling containers loaded directly to rail to be delivered to major distribution points quickly.

JAXPORT will pursue dredging the St. Johns River to 47 feet to allow larger containerships to pass through, and to make the port more competitive for deep-water and Asian cargo business. Deepening the river will allow the port to increase its opportunities for additional market distribution by becoming a "first inbound, last outbound" port. Preliminary analysis shows this improvement could lead to 8,113 new jobs by 2020.

Transport Spending Delivers ROI

Northeast Florida is fortunate to have government, public, and private sector leaders who realize transportation infrastructure upgrades must occur to keep the area operational and competitive in the logistics sector. Transportation spending delivers tangible economic benefits and a high return on investment in the form of jobs and economic impact for the region.

As a result, more manufacturers are choosing Northeast Florida for their operations. More than 50 major logistics companies operate in the area, and a supply chain management IT presence is growing.

Moving the Region Forward

Northeast Florida is on the right logistics path for a bright future. The business community is united with economic development and local governments to help move the region forward by cooperating on appropriate investments to infrastructure assets that will benefit the area.

The private sector also has a voice on transportation initiatives and policies through the newly formed Northeast Florida Transportation Alliance, comprised solely of private-sector leadership to focus on strategic solutions for critical regional transportation investments.

By capitalizing on the region's infrastructure, Northeast Florida is poised for more economic development growth. A unified commitment to transportation infrastructure enhancements shows Northeast Florida is able and ready to competitively operate in the logistics arena for the long term.