By Rachel Duran
Once Caterpillar Inc.’s new manufacturing facility is operational in Clarke and Oconee counties, Ga., in 2013, it will send nearly 40 percent of its production out for export. A resilient physical infrastructure was critical to the company when siting this facility, where it will produce its large earth movers and min-excavators.
Caterpillar announced in February it will build a 1 million-square-foot facility on 250 acres of the “Orkin industrial site,” which spans two counties. At full build out in 2020, this facility will house 1,400 workers. “The Athens site was selected from among dozens of locations considered due to its proximity to major ports, a strong regional base of potential suppliers, a positive and pro-active business climate and a good pool of potential employees with manufacturing experience,” says Mary Bell, vice president, Caterpillar’s Building Construction Products Division.
The Caterpillar site will be located a quarter of a mile from the CSX main rail line, which connects to Atlanta and the Eastern Seaboard. The Orkin property is also a three-hours drive to the ports of Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C. The 950-acre site is also bordered by two U.S. highways and a four-lane limited access highway connector to Interstate 85, writes Mac Brown, president, Athens-Clarke County Economic Development Foundation.
Another site selection factor at play was the ability for Caterpillar to build its supply chain nearby. The company expects two dozen suppliers to locate in the Athens region, and the Orkin property provides the additional space to support these efforts.
Supplying an anchor industry sector is the driving force at Port San Antonio, an inland multimodal port located at the former Kelly Air Force Base. The 1,900-acre site’s logistics activities have long supported the aerospace industry. URS Corp. is the single largest logistics firm at the port, specializing in support for the aerospace sector. In 2011, the company signed a lease renewal for 640,000 square feet of warehouse space at Kelly Field, the port’s industrial airport. New Breed Logistics has established a nearly 1 million-square-foot facility as a result of the growing aerospace industry presence at the port, says Bruce E. Miller, president and CEO, Port San Antonio.
Starting later this year, a new road project at Kelly Field will open 150 acres of air-serviced sites. Kelly Field features an 11,500-foot runway; a new air cargo terminal; and a U.S. Customs inspection facility. Other advantages include a Foreign Trade Zone designation, which applies to the entire port. The FTZ is managed by Operational Technologies, which also provides public warehousing and an array of services.
Other logistics-related assets at Port San Antonio include access to interstates 10, 35 and 37; and the 350-acre East Kelly Railport, which connects to the Union Pacific and BNSF Railway lines. The railport is home to 600,000 square feet of cross-docking warehouse space. The uptick in activities at the Eagle Ford Shale development in the region have increased the demand for rail-served sites. Watco Companies out of Kansas will add 15,000 feet of track at the railport and operate a switching service.
Moving from San Antonio and Texas to South Carolina, the nine counties that comprise the northeast marketing section of the state provide a variety of infrastructure advantages. The region’s officials are also willing to support the infrastructure needs of industry.
GSE Lining Technology, a manufacturer of geosynthetic lining products, is expanding its operations in Williamsburg County. The company’s $5 million investment, which is expected to create 24 new jobs, is being supported by the state’s Coordinating Council for Economic Development. The council approved a rural infrastructure grant worth $350,000 to the county for the establishment of a rail spur to the facility.
Companies in the northeast region can also directly access the Port of Charleston from Highway 52, a four-lane highway. Located directly in the region is the Port of Georgetown, which is a break bulk port, and which plans to conduct major dredging and upgrades to accommodate further growth, notes Jeff McKay, executive director, North Eastern Strategic Alliance.
Athens and Clarke County’s Brown notes that the Port of Charleston, and the Port of Savannah are both applying for state and federal monies to pay for dredging projects that will deepen shipping lanes. The projects are planned in response to the soon to be completed (2014) expansion of the Panama Canal, which will allow larger vessels to flow through the canal and reach eastern U.S. seaports.
Improvements are also underway at the country’s 11th largest port, the Port of Lake Charles, La., where construction has begun on a new grain elevator. “The state-of-the-art elevator will export Louisiana grain worldwide,” says George Swift, president and CEO, Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. Rail services are also being expanded at the port facility.
The Port of Lakes Charles is one of six ports in the region. The services at the five smaller ports range from handling barges to deepwater-related activities.
The southwest Louisiana area offers companies multiple forms of transportation assets in order to reach their customers. The Chennault Industrial Airpark, home to firms such as Northrop Grumman and Aeroframe Services, has a 10,000-foot runway to handle virtually any type of aircraft. The airpark includes 600 acres available for development, including two state certified sites, which guarantees the sites are ready for immediate development. Located adjacent to the Chennault Industrial Airpark is the Industrial Park East, which has also earned certification. There is also development taking place at the 4,000-acre Beauregard Regional Airport site near DeRidder.
Swift says an abundance of potential sites, combined with the ability to ship products by water, air, interstate or rail, makes southwest Louisiana an ideal logistics location, situated midway between Canada and South America.
In fact, the Southeastern United States offers manufacturers and logistics firms access to one of the fastest growing regions in the country. Located in the middle of it all is Georgia. The state is home to the busiest passenger airport in the world: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Georgia also features two deepwater ports, the Port of Savannah and the Port of Brunswick. The ports feature intermodal operations, with service provided by Norfolk Southern and CSX, says Kevin Lovelace, project manager, community and economic development division, Georgia Power. “There are also intermodal facilities located throughout the state.”
Cordele-Crisp County in south central Georgia has begun the development of an inland port, Lovelace says. This inland port will offer direct container rail service to the Port of Savannah, 175 miles to the west.
“From a company’s standpoint, all the tools you would need from a logistics and supply chain perspective are in Georgia, and they are easily accessible,” Lovelace says. In addition to physical infrastructure, the logistics cluster is bolstered by the presence of Manhattan Associates in Atlanta, a large supply chain software development company. RedPrairie Corp., a leading solution provider for the supply chain and other areas, is located in Alpharetta. “If you are opening a warehouse and you need racking systems, forklifts or warehouse management systems, you can find them here,” Lovelace says.
Georgia also features a lineup of educational programs and institutions to support logistics activities. Georgia Tech is home to the Supply Chain and Logistics Institute, which trains executives from Fortune 500 companies and Ph.D. students on supply chain issues, Lovelace says. The Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics in Savannah acts as a liaison between higher education and private industry to solve supply chain issues.
These assets recently attracted two distribution-related projects from home improvement retailer Lowe’s Companies Inc. Lovelace says the company has a processing center in Atlanta, and is constructing a regional distribution center in Rome, located in the northwest corner of the state.
Workforce, Buildings And Supply Chain Advantages
Georgia has two compelling initiatives to train and educate workers for logistics activities and other industries, which originate from the Georgia Governor’s Office of Workforce Development. The Georgia Work Ready program prequalifies talent based on skill levels according to platinum, gold, silver and bronze levels, based on core skills and work habits. In addition, the state’s localities can earn a Georgia Work Ready Community designation.
A new initiative, the Go Build program, promotes skilled trades. The office partners with the state’s school systems, going into high schools and middle schools to promote skilled trades to students, particularly those that do not plan to pursue a four-year postsecondary education.
While physical assets are vital to logistics-related initiatives, workforce remains a leading consideration. “In Kansas, we are looking at how we can better support our colleges in the recruitment, training and placing of engineering specialists in companies,” says Mickey Dean, executive director, Harvey County Economic Development Council Inc. The county and the city of Newton’s officials have teamed with nearby Wichita State University and Hutchinson Community College to ensure the community provides the talent companies need to fill available positions.
“This area is good at making products — Agco Corp., the third-largest ag equipment manufacturer in the world is located here,” Dean points out.
Harvey County, located near Wichita, is part of a region with a talent base experienced in working with composites for the advanced manufacturing and aviation industries. In addition to talented and available workers, companies will find plenty of space to grow, particularly at the Kansas Logistics Park, which has completed Phase I infrastructure installation. The interchange to the park has been temporarily expanded to handle large products and wider turns to support wind energy industry activities, as an example. “We are slated for the interchange to be completely rebuilt by 2014,” Dean says. The logistics park is located half a mile from Interstate 135, three-quarters of a mile from a U.S. highway, and a mile-and-a-quarter from an executive airport.
The 550-acre Kansas Logistics Park has announced two projects at this time, which are both expected to break ground this year. Tindall Corp. plans to manufacture concrete bases for wind towers; and New Millennium Wind Energy will manufacture vertical wind turbines, which will be used on site at facilities.
Dean says the land and transportation assets in Harvey County can also assist in building supply chains for incoming and existing industry.
Moving north to York County, Neb., the area’s low costs of conducting business and high worker productivity have contributed to the success of UTC’s Hamilton Sundstrand operation, which employs 210 people. The company benefits from the ability to easily move raw materials in and its aeronautics products out. York is located 40 miles west of Lincoln, and 90 miles west of Omaha on Interstate 80. The area is also served by U.S. Highway 81. York is home to multiple truck services, and sales and repair operations. “Another advantage is our speed to markets,” says Cassie Seagren, executive director, York County Development Corp. “We can reach Memphis or Salt Lake City within a day’s drive.”
Companies taking advantage of the county’s transportation assets include Champion Home Builders Inc., which builds modular homes, hotels, office buildings and ski lodges, Seagren notes. The company’s front door is 500 feet from Highway 81. Nolan Transportation LLC is headquartered in York, employing drivers nationwide. York Cold Storage Co. provides services for companies nationwide. It was partially bought by a foreign-owned company, which decided to keep the operation in York. And within a 10-mile radius of York three major seed corn producers are conducting business.
As you consider undertaking logistics and supply chain efficiencies in a partly revived economy, remember a strong physical infrastructure is just part of the equation. Look for communities that are willing to lend a hand to support your investment, whether it is support for the development of physical assets and/or the continued development of the talent pool.
For complete details on the organizations featured in this article, visit:
Athens-Clarke County (Ga.) Economic Development Foundation
Georgia Power’s Community and Economic Development Division
Harvey County (Kan.) Economic Development Council Inc.
North Eastern (S.C.) Strategic Alliance
Port San Antonio
York County (Neb.) Development Corp.