Heart of Texas Region Ideal for Distribution
When it comes to transportation and logistics, the Heart of Texas region is high on the list of favorite locations for distribution executives.
In fact, "Waco is perfect," says Les Gardner, vice president of logistics for Brentwood, Tenn.-based Tractor Supply Co., the nation’s largest retail farm-and-ranch store chain that operates a 650,000-square-foot distribution hub in the area.
Gardner and Tractor Supply aren’t the only ones with a fondness for what Waco can offer their operations. Distribution plants for Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, Sherwin-Williams and Ferguson Enterprises dot the region, and Caterpillar is building a 750,000-square-foot facility in the area. Additionally, Army & Air Force Exchange Services is launching a $43 million expansion at its 700,000-square-foot distribution center, which employs 510 people.
Strategic Transportation Nexus
Its location along the Interstate 35 and 45 corridors positions the region as a strategic transportation nexus – equal distance between Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth and equipped with extensive air and railway infrastructure.
"We selected Waco for its geographical location," Gardner says. "It’s very convenient to the major markets of San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. The I-35 corridor is really important to us especially with the intermodal ramp in Fort Worth. We needed access to southern Texas without getting too far from the intermodal connections that we have for the West Coast in Fort Worth."
Gardner says Waco’s location is a benefit, but there are other advantages as well, such as an attractive workforce, available land for expansion and a business-friendly environment.
Perfect for Expansion
Tractor Supply's distribution center was sited in Waco in the early 2000s and doubled its size less than a decade later. The center employs a workforce of 150-200 workers, including part-time seasonal student employees from Baylor University. Such an educated workforce also creates potential supply of beginning supervisors, Gardner adds.
"The community wanted the jobs, and the community had the property," Gardner says. "That made for a very good fit."
The inviting tax base and business-friendly environment has Tractor Supply in lockstep with the greater Waco local community.
"If it is too big of a city, you can’t get things done, and you don’t know who anybody is," Gardner says. "Our general manager in Waco is very familiar with the county commissioners and the mayor. They converse on a regular basis. It is a nice-sized city for us. It is not so big that it is onerous."
Connecting Rural Counties
To capitalize on its unique location and transportation assets, the Heart of Texas Council of Governments has developed a fixed-route rural transit service in partnership with the Waco Transit System to ensure workers have reliable public transportation within the six-county region.
Gary L. Rushing, transportation manager for the Heart of Texas Council of Governments, says transportation planning is a big component of economic development in the Waco area, which spans Bosque, Falls, Freestone, Hill, Limestone and McLennan counties.
"We have a lot of people in the rural areas that work in Waco," Rushing says. "The industrial park here is just bursting at the seams. There is a lot of industry here that employs a lot of folks even outside of Waco's urban area. Our goal is to work with them to help bring those employees in, because without transportation they are unable to maintain their jobs."
Transportation Assets in the Heart of Texas
The Heart of Texas region is well-positioned for distribution, with transportation assets that include:
Rail: Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Union Pacific Passenger Rail Service, Amtrak
Road: Interstate 35 and 45
Air: Waco Regional Airport, nine general aviation airports