Few aspects of an area's competitiveness are more fundamental than its infrastructure systems, and no other infrastructure system exerts a more elemental influence on a facility's location than the complex of highways that will serve it. Accordingly, over the course of this decade, Area Development's annual Corporate Survey has consistently ranked highway accessibility among the top-five location factors. Indeed, during the last four years, corporate decision-makers have placed highway accessibility no lower than the number-two spot and have again awarded it the number-one ranking in 2008.
A Basic Need
While corporate decision-makers, economic developers, and site selection consultants often overtly concentrate on seemingly sexier location decision factors, highway accessibility is never out of mind. Whether it delivers workers, materials, services, goods, or emergency vehicles - or provides entry to markets and customers - an area's highway system is basic to business operations. Further, the efficiency of that highway system enables informed decisions as to which modes of transport will best achieve a company's time-to-market objectives.
Transportation infrastructure is crucial to virtually every facility for access to people, support services, just-in-time materials delivery, and end-product distribution. Moreover, logistics costs comprise the single largest variable cost category for production and distribution. Inefficiency in any one aspect of the supply chain echoes throughout the entire operation, often in an unfortunate way.
Transportation cost, reliability, highway access, and market connectivity are all interconnected. An interstate-quality highway with dual access is highly desirable for large-scale manufacturing and distribution facilities. At the site level, redundant ingress/egress points on high-quality, public secondary roads are important, not only to minimize potential barriers to access, but also to ensure access for fire-fighting, emergency medical, police, and other essential services. Additionally, assurance of adequate design standards to accommodate commercial traffic needs careful attention. Appropriate controls for truck access and employee vehicle access are also important, as is highway access for other transport modes coincident with highways. Considered together, transportation and infrastructure factors converge at the highway to promote or constrain commerce.