Strategic Logistics Sites: In the Right Place At the Right Time

Strategic Logistics Sites: In the Right Place At the Right Time

Locating your manufacturing or distribution business in a great logistics site puts you where you need to be, when you need to be there.

For leisure travelers, the complex U.S. geography makes for memorable trips. For logistics professionals, that same complexity presents challenges as well as opportunities.

One benefit of the vast American landscape is that strategic logistics sites appear at numerous points along the country’s twists and turns from sea to shining sea. For those charged with moving products from Point A to Point B as efficiently as possible, the trick is making the correct choice.

Here’s a look at some of today’s smartest choices for logistics sites in the United States.

Buffalo Niagara, New York: Bi-national Access

Who said Niagara falls? When it comes to logistics, the truth is that Niagara—as well as Buffalo—rises.

"Buffalo Niagara’s bi-national location on the U.S.-Canada border is a tremendous asset to industries looking to access northeastern markets," says Thomas Kucharski, president and CEO of Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, a Buffalo, N.Y.-based nonprofit, private business development and regional marketing organization.

"Our region facilitates more than $72 billion in trade between the United States and Canada—that’s 15 percent of the total trade conducted between the world’s two largest trading partners," Kucharski notes. "To support this trade, the area has a robust mix of professional freight forwarders, consolidators, customs brokers, and third-party logistics providers."

Alpina Foods, a leading dairy-producing company in South America, recently decided to open its first U.S. specialty yogurt manufacturing plant in the Buffalo Niagara region. The main driver of Alpina Foods’ expansion strategy in the United States is logistics.

Buffalo Niagara’s labor supply comprises 1.2 million people older than 15. About two-thirds are employed or seeking employment, constituting a workforce of nearly 800,000.

"We chose Buffalo Niagara because of its skilled workforce, proximity to milk supply, ability to reach our target markets, and long-standing tradition of supporting western New York’s dairy and agriculture industries," says Julian Jaramillo, Alpina’s president and CEO.

No wonder Buffalo Niagara Enterprise is dedicated to the idea that the region is an ideal place for businesses to locate and grow. The region is strategically located within 500 miles of 40 percent of the continental North American population and is a bi-national gateway for commerce. The Buffalo Niagara region is approximately the midway point between New York and Chicago, Toronto, and Pittsburgh.

Among the region’s logistics assets are links to Canada through seven different ports of entry, and one of the most highly developed rail systems in the world. Its strategic bi-national site makes Buffalo Niagara a natural to host one of FedEx Trade Networks’ locations, which provides shippers of all sizes the help they need to move their goods globally.

Moreover, a new intermodal hub has opened in Buffalo, which offers businesses increased capacity, improved technology, and additional service lanes—all on top of a developed rail infrastructure system. In June 2011, CSX announced several new lanes for domestic customers to ship container goods from Buffalo to Jacksonville, Orlando, and Miami, Fla.

Joplin, Missouri: Midwest Market Hub

Joplin, Mo., may have made international headlines when it was struck by a devastating tornado in May 2011. But for logistics pros, the Joplin region was always in the eye of the storm—in a positive way. And make no mistake about it: The region is definitely alive and well, and open for business.

Power was restored to the area with remarkable speed after the twister hit, and rebuilding hasn’t stopped since. The region continues to flourish as one of the country’s greatest and strongest logistics sites. Among the reasons is its sheer depth and size.

The Joplin region comprises 10 communities and five counties in southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas. Economic development efforts throughout the region are promoted through the Joplin Regional Partnership, which provides site selection assistance, incentive and business tax information, key business and local government contacts, demographic and economic data, and other services.

A variety of transportation options put the Joplin, Mo., region within easy reach of major markets such as Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Tulsa, Little Rock, and Memphis. Interstate 44 runs through the region, and the four-lane U.S. Highway 71 links Joplin to Kansas City and New Orleans.

"Through this unique partnership, site selectors have access to information about multiple locations throughout our area that meet their specifications," says Rob O’Brian, president, Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce. "This information can reduce the number of inquiries a site selector has to make and help make the selection process much faster for companies that are looking to move, expand, or begin operations."

The city of Joplin is the hub of the region, with an overall market reach of more than 700,000 people within 60 miles.

"The Joplin region is located near the population center of the United States and is situated nearly equidistant between Los Angeles and New York, as well as the Mexican and Canadian borders," says O’Brian.

A highway system that includes Interstate 44 (east-west), interstate-grade U.S. Highway 71, and U.S. Route 69 (north-south) creates connections to every region in the country, as well as to Mexico and Canada.

Three Class I railroads and two regional short-line railroads also are important parts of the transportation system. These rail lines provide direct access to major ports on the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean.

In addition, the Joplin Regional Airport and three other airports within 60 to 90 minutes drive time provide commercial and cargo air service to markets throughout the world.

Nebraska: Center Stage

Take out a U.S. map to identify optimum logistics sites, and you’ll find Nebraska right in the middle.

"Geographically, Nebraska is a center stage to both regional and national markets," says Ken Lemke, economist, Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD). "Interstate Highway 80, the most traveled east-west transcontinental route of the interstate highway system, offers 482 miles of quick access to every location in the nation.

"Through Nebraska’s roadways, goods delivered by truck reach more than 25 percent of the U.S. population in just one day," Lemke adds. "Within two days, that percentage jumps to more than 90 percent."

NPPD’s Economic Development Team provides a variety of services to assist Nebraska and its communities in their efforts to attract, retain, and expand businesses. These services are available to customers of NPPD and its utility partners, as well as to companies considering Nebraska sites. In the logistics arena, the NPPD team has a lot to sell.

Nebraska’s utilities use a balanced mix of resources—including water and wind, coal, nuclear, natural gas, oil, and methane—to generate power. Nearly 40 percent of its power generation is carbon-free, which helps businesses support their sustainability initiatives.

"Nebraska’s relationship with Class I railroads is another key strategic advantage for companies that locate in the state," Lemke says. "Union Pacific, headquartered in Omaha, and BNSF Railway enable strategic supply chain delivery by way of direct, mid-continent routes. Because of these main rail centers, no major city in the United States is more than five days away by train."

A total of 10 freight railroads operate more than 3,200 miles of track throughout the state. Nebraska also is home to several of the nation’s leading truck transportation companies, among them Adams Trucking, Crete Carrier Corporation, and Werner Enterprises. "In total, some 13,500 trucking companies call our state home," Lemke says. "Thus, from a resource perspective, we are well-positioned to take advantage of rail intermodal operations."

Helping substantially in this effort is the Nebraska Logistics Council, which operates under the umbrella of the Nebraska Trucking Association. "Members include corporate officers from Fortune 500 companies and major Nebraska companies, one-person organizations, account executives, and logistics support staff," explains Larry Johnson, president of the Nebraska Trucking Association. "Members have the opportunity to network and exchange ideas with others who face the same challenges and goals."

Southern California: West Coast Advantage

When it comes to living in Southern California, the three "S" advantages apply: sun, sand, surf. But for logistics professionals, there is another "S" reason to recommend the region:

"The West Coast, and specifically the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, are the Pacific gateway for products manufactured in Asia," says Lance Ryan, vice president of marketing and leasing, Watson Land Company, a Carson, Calif.-based industrial property developer, owner, and manager with sites throughout Southern California.

Because of the large Southern California population base, approximately 40 percent of all goods imported through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are distributed for local consumption.

"The West Coast allows for the shortest all-water route to the United States," he continues. "When retailers are identifying an entry point for products manufactured offshore, they consider timing, cost, and reliability. Even with the opening of the Panama Canal expansion in 2014, it will still be less expensive and faster to route freight to Southern California and land-bridge it from there to the Midwest."

Watson Land Company plays a part in the Southern California advantage. The company has developed several million square feet of master-planned centers within four miles of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which results in lower drayage costs and a significant increase in truck turns.

"Watson also has strategic master-planned centers within Inland Empire locations," Ryan says. "The sites allow for big-box distribution centers of 500,000 square feet or larger."

Watson Land Company carries a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) designation on more than eight million square feet of its distribution facilities. The FTZ designation allows shippers to significantly reduce operating costs through such methods as duty deferral and single weekly container entry, which reduces merchandise processing fees.

"The transportation infrastructure is critical to our distribution and manufacturing customers," Ryan says. "Our master-planned centers are developed within locations that provide easy access to major freeways, ports, airports, and intermodal rail. This provides customers speed and flexibility, whether they are transloading imports, exporting raw materials, or distributing their own manufactured products."

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