Global Logistics Infrastructure Builds on Defense, Aerospace
Air Force One practices touch and goes on the two mile long runway at the Global TransPark in Kinston, NC.
A convergence of favorable military and private sector growth with an upswing in transportation and distribution activity is positioning North Carolina's Eastern Region as one of the nation's leading centers for global logistics supporting defense- and aerospace-related industries.
Stretching 7,000 square miles inward from the Pamlico Sound and Atlantic Ocean, the 13-county area is home to the country's third largest concentration of military personnel based at installations such as USMC Camp Lejeune, MCAS Cherry Point, MCAS New River, U.S. Navy Fleet Readiness Center East and Seymour Johnson AFB. More than 150,000 active duty military are stationed in or very near the region, and U.S. Army (Fort Bragg) and U.S. Navy (Norfolk) facilities lie just outside the area.
That formidable military presence has beckoned a bevy of defense- and aerospace-related companies, including Spirit AeroSystems in Kinston, Honeywell in Rocky Mount, DSM Dyneema in Greenville, AAR Cargo/Defense Systems in Goldsboro, Kidde Aerospace & Defense in Wilson, Spatial Integrated Systems in Kinston, Oshkosh in Jacksonville and Defense Holdings Inc. in Trenton.
To support such activity, a logistical presence is emerging, as military units and private sector firms receive and ship products and goods globally from the region, says Leonard D. Kulik, Senior Vice President of North Carolina’s Eastern Region Development Commission.
These defense and aerospace activities are creating a technical synergy in the region between military installations and private companies, Kulik says. For instance, Spirit AeroSystems, which opened a new 500,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in 2010 for work on Airbus A350 XWB aircraft, and the Fleet Readiness Center East at MCAS Cherry Point, which provides maintenance support for Marine Corps aircraft, are both working with new carbon-graphite processes in aircraft structures.
"Cutting-edge technology like carbon graphite in aircraft manufacturing and repair is popping up all across the region," Kulik says. "Leading international aerospace companies have a choice to go anyplace, and fortunately many of them choose Eastern North Carolina."
Several military trends have emerged to create favorable opportunities to grow the region’s global logistical footprint for the aerospace and defense industries, says Mark Sutherland, Executive Director of the Eastern Region Military Growth Task Force.
As military branches realign their resources, for example, they are seeking increased efficiency in how they procure maintenance work, Sutherland notes.
Benefits of Proximity
The Eastern Region and its proximity to ports, roadways, rail and air offers a hub and spoke network for transportation and distribution that attracts military and private companies supporting defense and aerospace, Sutherland adds.
“The idea is that if you can do most of your work in proximity to the end user, you can save transportation costs and turnaround time, which equates to increased readiness and a reduction in your total carbon footprint,” Sutherland says.
Along with its other assets, North Carolina’s Global TransPark, a foreign trade zone, provides resources that help drive down the cost of importing and exporting. The Kinston Regional Jetport at the TransPark accommodates large cargo planes, including the super-sized Antinov, and offers the largest commercial runway between Washington D.C. and Atlanta. Such facilities give the region a stamp of approval as a springboard for global logistics momentum, according to Kulik.
“The extensive military assets, coupled with a very richly developed east-west and north-south logistics infrastructure – roads, rail, ports and airfields – suggest that this region is an efficient way to use your transportation money,” Sutherland says.
In an effort to enhance its competitiveness for global shipping, North Carolina recently launched a study of its maritime assets, including ports at Wilmington and Morehead City, in addition to its infrastructure. Sponsored by the Governor’s Logistics Task Force, the North Carolina Maritime Strategy has already issued a preliminary draft report addressing maritime transportation issues and guiding regions with future decision making and long- and short-term investment strategies.
Port of Wilmington
Distance from the Atlantic Ocean
42 feet deep, 26 miles long
Size of the navigation channel along the Cape Fear River
Tons moved through the port in fiscal year 2011
Tons exported to China, the port's top foreign destination
Annual capacity of the port's container terminal