Tennessee Highways, Air, Rail Give State Logistics Advantage
Tennessee is well situated as a major transportation hub for the United States.
With major interstate highways, service from six of the largest U.S. railroads, one of the world’s largest air cargo hubs and its western border hugging the Mississippi River, Tennessee has the means to move goods anywhere.
For the second year in a row, Tennessee’s transportation system ranks as one of the best in the nation, according to CNBC’s 2011 study “America’s Top States for Business.” Tennessee’s overall score makes it the fifth-best in America in the category of “Transportation and Infrastructure.”
Five commercial airports serve the state’s travelers and shippers. Memphis International Airport has more than 5 million airline boardings annually, and Nashville International Airport 4.3 million. Nashville International has completed the second phase of a major terminal renovation project and plans an expanded consolidated rental car facility in the near future.
Memphis a World Hub for Air Cargo
Memphis is home to FedEx, the world largest express transportation company, making Memphis International Airport one of the busiest air cargo hubs in the world. More than 9.4 million tons of air cargo is shipped out of Memphis annually.
The Memphis Super Hub, as FedEx calls it, has slots for 175 aircraft and 300 miles of conveyor belts. More than 4,000 employees during the day and 8,000 at night handle 3.3 million packages a day.
Many firms have located their shipping capabilities near the airport. Nike has a 1-million-square-foot distribution center in Memphis and employs more than 1,800 workers.
“Logistics is our main industry here in Memphis,” says Mark Herbison, senior vice president of economic development for the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce. “I believe it is unparalleled in the country when you look at the four main modes of transportation. Our location is ideal for the company with time-sensitive products.”
Tennessee has an impressive lineup of interstate highways, including I-40, I-24, I-75 I-65, I-26 and I-81. With such an extensive transportation network of highways, the state is home to a large number of trucking distribution facilities.
Over the past decade, more than 120 distribution centers haven located in the state. Ingram Books and Bridgestone have large distribution centers in La Vergne, and Stellar Management Group has a major distribution center in Chattanooga. The state is home to 13,700 distribution centers, employing more than 146,000 workers. Online retailer amazon.com is investing $139 million for 1-million-square-foot distribution centers in Hamilton County and Bradley County in Southeast Tennessee, and the company plans a third location of up to 500,000 square feet in Wilson County, east of Nashville.
Memphis is the second-largest port along the Mississippi, with more than 150 companies doing business there. Two other large rivers, the Cumberland and the Tennessee, also provide important waterway access for the state’s businesses.
Port of Cates Landing Will Boost Region
The Port of Cates Landing in Northwest Tennessee promises to have an enormous economic impact. Construction started in mid-2011 on this $52 million complex along the Mississippi River. The port is situated on the only developable site above the 100-year flood plain between Memphis and Cairo, Ill. Planned for completion in early 2013, the port is being developed by the Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority. Economic forecasters estimate that the project will create 234 construction jobs and 1,700 permanent jobs when completed.
Cates Landing is close to railroads and within a day’s truck drive of 75 percent of America’s markets. Port authority officials say several companies have expressed interest in locating near the port; a 350-acre industrial park is planned in nearby Lake County. Jimmy Williamson, port authority chairman, says the port facility will be a “game changer” for the region. An 11-county effort to furnish job training to workers in the region is underway.
“We believe this project will give northwest Tennessee a tremendous advantage it has never had before,” Williamson says.