Tim Feemster, senior vice president and director of global logistics for the Grubb & Ellis Company, and a 35-year veteran of supply chain and logistics services, lauds companies that understand that besides labor costs, the key drivers to determining where a site is based should be based on both outbound and inbound transportation. "Transportation costs are two and a half to five times higher than the cost of actually running the typical distribution center," he says. "Rent is only a very small piece of a center's cost." That's why Feemster advises companies to not only research the benefits of intermodal centers, but also take time to research which one would be best suited to meet their unique distribution or warehousing needs.
There are already some notable logistics hubs in the United States, with some new ones on the horizon:
• Nearly 20 years old, AllianceTexas is the "granddaddy" of logistics hubs. Located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, this 17,000-acre master-planned, mixed-use community includes industrial, office, and retail space; an inland port; a BNSF intermodal yard; BNSF and Union Pacific rail lines; Fort Worth Alliance Airport, a 100 percent cargo airport; and 6,700 homes. Over 27,000 workers are employed by AllianceTexas' 170 companies.
• The Dallas Logistics Hub is a 6,000-acre master-planned venue offering up to 60 million square feet for distribution, manufacturing, office, and retail uses. Its first two warehouses, now under construction, are scheduled for completion this summer. The park's owner, the Allen Group, says the park is expected to create over 60,000 jobs and have a total economic impact of $5.4 billion when completed in about 30 years. The Hub is adjacent to Union Pacific's Southern Dallas Intermodal Terminal, a potential BNSF intermodal facility, four major highways, and the Lancaster Municipal Airport, a future cargo airport. The park will be a vital inland port accepting products from the Ports of Houston and Los Angeles/Long Beach, in addition to deep-water ports in western Mexico.
• Near downtown St. Louis, Norfolk and Southern provides rail service to Gateway Commerce Center. This 2,300-acre commercial/industrial development site at the intersection of Interstates 255 and 270 connects with four major interstates: I-44, I-55, I-64, and I-70. Triple Crown Services Company operates a 62-acre intermodal facility on Gateway's north side. In addition, the park is close to four cargo-handling airports and the nation's second-largest inland port. Tenants include facilities for Dial Corporation, Procter & Gamble, and Hershey Foods, plus a 1.2 million-square-foot Unilever logistics/distribution facility. Gateway has created 2,000 jobs, and attracted more than $200 million in new investment and nearly 8 million square feet of new construction.
• The 750-acre BNSF Logistics Park Chicago in Elwood, Illinois, is the centerpiece of a 2,200-acre intermodal distribution center and warehouse development. It offers direct rail, truck, intermodal, and transload services, and provides access to key rail routes to and from all West Coast ports. Tenants include Wal-Mart, Potlatch, DSC Logistics, and Georgia-Pacific.
• In August 2007, Union Pacific broke ground on a $90 million, state-of-the-art intermodal terminal in San Antonio. Once operational later this year, the 300-acre rail port is expected to generate $2.48 billion in cumulative economic impact for the region over 20 years. The terminal will accept and ship household goods and similar items destined for retailers and distribution centers as well as auto parts for the San Antonio's Toyota plant. It will serve as a prime NAFTA logistics point for goods going to and from Mexico, as well as commodities moving between San Antonio and Houston, and points beyond. The facility is expected to process 100,000 trailers per year at first, and eventually perhaps 250,000.
Feemster advises businesses using these and other intermodal facilities - notably those firms importing from Asia - to consider inserting "risk diversification" plans into their overall logistics strategies. "They must take into consideration all the risk levels involved in bringing in all their products through West Coast ports," he says, adding that an increasing number of companies now are altering their supply chain by using California ports as well as coming up through the Panama Canal.
Ficker notes that "people are paying very close attention to the plans of rails." Revitalized and renewed, U.S. railroads are clearly taking a more prominent role in helping America's companies thrive in these uncertain economic times, and remain globally competitive in the decades ahead.