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Major ports get big-ship ready

Major ports get big-ship ready

Call it a race to the finish. After nearly a decade of construction, the widened Panama Canal is slated to open this June—an action that has spurred ports around the globe to take measures to prepare for the world’s biggest ships. Whether deepening their harbor channels, renovating their terminal facilities or remaining confident in their ability to handle Post-Panamax ships, below is the latest update in preparations of many of the ports affected by the expanded locks.


Getting big-ship-ready led JAXPORT officials to initiate a number of port renovations, including purchasing three new Post-Panamax cranes—slated for delivery in July—and modernizing the terminal berths. Roy Schleicher, JAXPORT’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer, says the Jacksonville, Florida-based port is also moving forward in the dredging process and will commence operations in early 2017. “So that’s a positive and, of course, we’ll be dredging roughly 13 miles,” Schleicher says. Completion is slated for 2020 or 2021.


Thanks to a public-private partnership with Ports America Chesapeake, the Port of Baltimore is now ready for the world’s largest vessels, according to port spokesman Richard Scher. Baltimore—which has boasted a 50-foot-deep channel since the ’90s—currently has four Super-Post-Panamax cranes in service and has welcomed a 9,300-TEU ship that traveled through the Suez Canal. “Other East Coast ports have hurdles that they still need to overcome,” Scher says, “but we’re in a very competitive position right now.”


Welcoming Post-Panamax ships isn’t anything new—11 of these vessels visit Charleston each week—but infrastructure enhancements are already under way in preparation of serious growth. South Carolina Ports Authority spokeswoman Erin Dhand reveals that the Port of Charleston will see $2 billion in new capital investments over the next decade, including deepening the harbor to 52 feet and renovating the container terminal. The port will also soon house two new Super-Post-Panamax cranes.


A major hub for energy products, the Southwest Texas port is taking steps to meet demand for such commodities—many of which are transported on outsize ships. The Port of Corpus Christi’s Chief Commercial Officer Jarl Pedersen reveals that the port will undergo $1 billion in infrastructure enhancements over the next decade—with key improvements including the construction of a new rail yard with 8,500-foot-long sidings and deepening the ship channel from 45 feet to 52 feet. Completion of the latter is expected in late 2018.


Infrastructural inefficiencies—namely the fact that Post-Panamax ships arriving from Europe and South America must be lightly loaded—led port authorities to launch a massive renovation campaign. Port Everglades Director Steven Cernak says the goals of the project include deepening the main navigation channels to between 48 feet and 50 feet from their current 42-foot depth and “widening the entrance channel and other narrow areas in the port for safety.” Although construction is still in the preliminary phase, Congressional authorization is expected this year.


The Mississippi-based port—once regarded as simply a banana port off the Gulf of Mexico—has come a long way in recent years, says Port of Gulfport CEO Jonathan Daniels. Preparing for an influx of traffic led port officials to embark on a $570 million restoration plan, which involves the construction of wharfs, terminals, intermodal container transfer facilities and three new ship-to-shore gantry cranes—the latter of which came to fruition in March of this year. Such renovations are slated for completion in late 2017.


Since 2004, the Canadian port has benefited from more than $250 million in infrastructure enhancements to prepare for the world’s biggest ships, reveals spokesman Lane Farguson. Fortunately, the Port of Halifax already has one major advantage going for it: The ice-free harbor is naturally deep. “There are 52-foot drafts at each container terminal,” Farguson adds, “and [our] terminal operators have invested in Post-Panamax cranes to accommodate larger vessels.” Additional upgrades include expanded piers, new gates and truck-marshaling facilities.


The port undergoes billion-dollar capital improvement projects every five years—and enhancement efforts at the Port of Houston remain strong. “We are continuing to modernize our facilities,” says port spokeswoman Lisa Ashley, pointing to the port’s four new Super-Post-Panamax cranes and dredging activities at the Barbours Cut and Bayport Container Terminals. In September of 2015, the Barbours Cut Channel was deepened to 45 feet and the Bayport Channel project (also at a depth of 45 feet) is slated for completion imminently.


North America’s leading seaport exhibited its big-ship readiness in December, welcoming the behemoth CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin. The arrival of the 18,000-TEU vessel, which marked the largest container ship to ever make port in North America, proved that the Port of Los Angeles has the capacity to “efficiently accommodate megaships,” says Executive Director Gene Seroka. Such capabilities were further on display this spring when the Benjamin Franklin and fellow megaship Maersk Edmonton returned to the port—voyages Seroka anticipates continuing in the future.


Authorities have invested $125 million in port renovations since 2012, including a cool $67 million for container terminal infrastructure enhancements, reveals Port of New Orleans CEO Gary LaGrange. “We are big-ship ready,” LaGrange says, citing the port’s new Post-Panamax gantry cranes and the Mississippi River Intermodal Terminal rail yard. The port is also working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study the impact of dredging the Mississippi River to 50 feet—a move that would make it the deepest channel on the Gulf of Mexico.


In addition to raising the Bayonne Bridge roadway from 151 feet to 215 feet—an investment exceeding $1.3 billion—the port is upgrading its infrastructure to prepare for an influx of Post-Panamax ships. Bethann Rooney, assistant director of the port’s Commerce Department, says such endeavors highlight a decade-long, $6 billion-plus commitment. “We have right-sized the channel—deepening it to 50 feet—as well as the berth, the terminal, the roadway and the railway to make the supply chain move efficiently,” she says.


Benefiting from more than $1 billion in infrastructure enhancements, PortMiami is fully capable of handling the world’s biggest ships, says port CEO Juan Kuryla. “A new big-ship era is here,” he says, with the port directly linked to the highway system via the PortMiami Tunnel and benefiting from Super-Post-Panamax gantry cranes and a 50-to-52-foot-deep harbor—up from 42 feet. Kuryla says the completion of PortMiami’s deep-dredge project “cannot be overstated,” adding that the port has positioned itself as a major hub for maritime trade.


With Post-Panamax ships accounting for roughly one-third of Savannah’s port calls, the port has taken numerous measures to stay ahead of demand. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently deepening the Savannah Harbor to 47 feet at mean low tide (54 feet at high tide)—with an initial contract involving dredging the outer harbor to 49 feet at mean low water. “Once the deepening is complete, megaships will be able to call on Savannah with heavier loads,” says Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz.


Eastern Canada’s largest port, Port Saint John is launching a seven-year, CAD$205 million modernization plan that will enable it to accept ships with 49-foot drafts, reveals port CEO Jim Quinn. Under the plan, the port will install cranes to improve cargo-handling capabilities and deepen the main channel to 32 feet. “As soon as we do that, we’ll be [developing] a new, 12,000-foot intermodal yard, as well as a technologically advanced trucking entrance that leads directly onto the highway system,” Quinn says.


Offering 50-foot deep channels and “Suez-class” container cranes, the Port of Virginia is already a haven for megaships, says Virginia Port Authority CEO John Reinhart. He estimates that by the end of fiscal-year 2016, the port will have invested $135 million in infrastructural improvements, including crane installations and cargo-conveyance equipment purchases. Port authorities also inked a deal with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last year to study the benefits of dredging the Norfolk Harbor to 55 feet—a study slated for completion by 2018. n

America’s Leading EDCs

We’ve been looking forward to introducing this feature into the pantheon of Global Trade special issues for quite a while, as it gives us a more focused venue for spotlighting the excellent work of America’s economic development corporations (EDCs) than we are afforded with our annual crowd favorite, “America’s Top Cities for Global Trade.” These EDCs aren’t necessarily from the biggest cities—indeed they’re not always cities, but sometimes states or independent organizations. But the common thread is that they’re using creative and effective means for attracting business, and you should be familiar with the opportunities their efforts present to you.

There’s another reason we’re proud of this feature: It represents the next evolution of our online tool, Global Trade 101. We’ve compiled a database of EDCs from around the nation, found at, where you can research the important factors in your decision of where to locate your next facility—including tax rates, workforce statistics, logistics infrastructure, incentives and programs, and basic city data such as median home prices and gross product.

For this first installment of America’s Leading EDCs, we’ve highlighted 18 economic development corporations with a summary of some of their accomplishments. In our online database Global Trade 101, however, there are dozens more available to research 24 hours a day and more are added every week. Frankly, it’s so useful it’s become our No. 1 research tool.

Want to list your EDC in the Global Trade 101 section of our website? Want to submit an entry for 2017’s “America’s Top EDCs” or introduce us to one of your EDC’s thought leaders for our new “Top Site Selection Specialists” feature in our August/September issue? Send us a request at or email our editor, Patrick Dooley, at

Buoying Alabama’s prolific automotive and aerospace manufacturing sectors is the Alabama Department of Commerce, which offers free, customized workforce training via Alabama Industrial Development Training. The department is also working to develop incentives that bring jobs to Alabama while reducing the state’s reliance on debt. Clearly, such tactics are working: Alabama recently beat out more than two dozen other states to win Remington Outdoor Co.’s bid for a $110 million manufacturing facility; the Huntsville plant will house more than 2,000 employees.

Advocating for its constituency—and being successful at it—is one of the AED’s biggest strengths, officials say. Some of the organization’s key feats include eradicating the Throwback Rule—which levied taxes on 100 percent of a corporation’s profits—and eliminating the gross receipts tax on manufacturing-related consumables. The association also steered New Mexico’s adoption of the Single Sales Factor for manufacturers and helped the state’s Job Creation Fund grow from $3 million in 2014 to nearly $50 million in 2015.

With two of its top executives boasting international ties, it’s no surprise that the Charlotte Chamber is committed to attracting foreign investment. Each year, the North Carolina-based chamber helps more than 350 companies navigate the site-selection process, half of which are global. 2015, in particular, was a big year for the organization, with the Charlotte Chamber landing more than $550 million in new capital investments and seeing the number of international companies in the city jump from 606 in 2003 to an impressive 958.

The Wyoming-based organization is certainly not new to the economic development sector—2016 marks its 30th year of operation—but Cheyenne LEADS isn’t resting on its laurels, officials say. Situated in business-friendly Laramie County—home to Searing Industries, Microsoft and Lowe’s Distribution Center—Cheyenne LEADS continues to invest in shovel-ready business parks and industrial sites. The organization’s commitment to growth has resulted in 80 diverse companies coming to Cheyenne and creating more than 6,000 new jobs—a capital investment valued at more than $1.2 billion.

Alabama’s biggest city, Birmingham is leading the state in economic development initiatives. One of Birmingham officials’ biggest accomplishments in 2015 was the successful retention and expansion of global manufacturers Steris, CMC Steel, Evonik and Oxford Pharmaceuticals—the latter of which announced a landmark $29.4 million investment in 2014 to build a 120,000-square-foot production facility in the city. Fueling Birmingham’s economy even further is the recent development of Uptown—an entertainment district in the middle of the city—and the rebranding of Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

Arizona’s sizzling heat has nothing on one of the hottest tickets in town: ExporTech Boot Camp. Together with the Arizona Commerce Authority, the Mesa OED offers local companies a crash course in exporting, such as logistics, export compliance and identifying international markets; an export coach walks each company through the process. The Mesa OED’s efforts are clearly not in vain: Apple recently invested $2 billion in the Arizona city and Autoline Industries is reshoring more than 80 manufacturing jobs to Mesa from Asia.

An alliance between nine local organizations, the EDP unifies Boyle County, Kentucky’s economic development efforts. It’s a unique model, but EDP members say the alliance proves that there’s strength in numbers. One of the EDP’s recent successes involved three member organizations working together to help the Danville-based Wilderness Trail Distillery (WTD) find a new production site. At first, the WTD mulled moving to another county, but the EDP showed the distillery how investing $5.6 million in a local venue would be good for business.

The numbers don’t lie: Business in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is booming. In 2014, Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County boasted the second highest year-over-year employment gains among all 32 metropolitan divisions. And, last November, the city’s unemployment rate fell from 5.4 percent to 4.5 percent, year-over-year. Elevating the city’s high employment rate is the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, which helped companies create or retain more than 22,000 direct high-value jobs from 2007 to 2015—a volume that has impacted Broward County’s economy by $9.8 billion annually.

Hurricane Katrina may have devastated the city in 2005, but GNO has helped New Orleans get back on its feet. Since 2008, the economic development organization has been “materially involved” in bringing $12.5 billion of capital investments and 21,525 jobs to the region, officials reveal. GNO was also instrumental in guiding China-based Shandong Yuhuang’s decision to build a $1.85 billion methanol plant in nearby St. James Parish and facilitating banana giant Chiquita’s resumption of services to the Port of New Orleans after a 40-year hiatus.

Helping local small and medium-sized businesses compete in the global marketplace led to the GPEC’s creation of the Greater Phoenix Metro Export Plan. The plan—a key pillar of the organization’s metropolitan business strategy—was developed alongside top Phoenix lawmakers, academics and business leaders to transform the region into a technology-driven economic powerhouse. To date, one of the GPEC’s biggest successes has been expediting the permitting process to 30 days or less; this speed enables companies entering Phoenix to launch operations quicker than ever before.

For a mid-sized city, Richmond, Virginia, packs a lot of punch. Ten Fortune 1,000 companies call the Richmond area home and the GRP—an organization with a proven track record of success—guides the city’s economic development efforts. According to officials, the GRP helped 465 new and expanding companies create more than 53,000 jobs in Richmond from its July 1994 inception until June 2015—investments valued at $10.8 billion. Such a volume equates to a return of $186 on every dollar in the GRP’s budget.

Playing up the state’s best assets—namely, Missouri’s strategic location, access to talent and availability of work-ready sites—may be Missouri Partnership’s typical M.O. for attracting business. But now the organization, founded in 2007, can tout the Missouri Works Training program, which offers customized employee recruitment, screening and training at no cost to new or expanding companies. Missouri Partnership executives say these advantages have helped them recruit 92 projects since 2009—a sum resulting in 11,762 new jobs and $979 million in new capital investments.

Nashville may receive more attention for its eponymous TV show and honky-tonk establishments, but Music City has emerged as a global leader in commerce. The city, which is home to international brands Under Armour and Amazon, saw exports surge 10 percent, year-over-year, to a record $9.6 billion in 2014—a volume largely attributable to the efforts of the NACC. The chamber also helped 154 companies relocate or expand in Nashville last year, with nearly 28 percent of the new jobs created through foreign direct investment.

Teaching 5,000 eighth-graders about production may be an unorthodox way to prepare the next generation for careers in manufacturing, but thinking outside of the box is the OEA’s specialty, officials say. The South Carolina-based organization, which takes a “holistic approach” toward economic development, has also developed a countywide youth apprenticeship program to invest in future leaders. Perhaps the OEA’s biggest accomplishments to date, however, include securing more than $190 million in new capital investments in 36 months and helping Oconee County become an ACT-certified Work Ready Community.

Orlando may be “The Happiest Place on Earth,” but the Orlando EDC is making sure the city is known more for its job growth—it ranked No. 2 in the nation in 2015—than a mouse. Such an objective led to the EDC’s recent “Orlando. You don’t know the half of it.” campaign—a promotion Verizon’s Karan Mehra says would have been beneficial two years ago when her company selected Orlando for relocation. “There wasn’t a comfort feel [for business],” Mehra says, “but Orlando’s numbers proved it.”

Representing one of the fastest-growing metro economies in the nation, Grand Rapids-based The Right Place gives companies the tools they need to succeed, members of the economic development organization say. Small and medium-sized manufacturers particularly benefit from the guidance of The Right Place, thanks to its Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, which fosters both technical and soft skills job training. The organization has also developed The Manufacturers Council peer networks, as well as a group for medical device companies—actions highlighting The Right Place’s culture of collaboration.

The results are in: Tulsa Future II—the second installment of Tulsa Regional Chamber’s long-term economic development strategy—was a blazing success. From 2011 to 2015, Tulsa Future II yielded nearly $2 billion in capital investments and led to the creation of 28,814 jobs—more than half of which meet the target salary of $50,000 or higher. A percentage of these jobs are courtesy of Macy’s, which is establishing a $180 million order fulfillment center in northeast Oklahoma as a result of the chamber’s efforts.

Utah’s reputation as a business-friendly state is undisputed—after all, the state enjoys a low tax environment and an even lower unemployment rate. But boosting Utah’s status as a pro-business state is the Utah GOED, which works with partner organizations to facilitate economic growth. One manifestation of this is the Aerospace Pathways Program, which promotes a well-trained workforce by offering students internships—and later jobs (contingent on completing the program and fulfilling certain pre-employment requirements)—with one of their aerospace partners.

Power Up

Expanding may make good business sense, but it often provides companies with a host of technical and logistical challenges. Brian Weber says it’s a phenomenon he has witnessed firsthand as senior engineer of facilities for Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing (TIEM), a Columbus, Indiana-based manufacturer and distributor of Toyota forklifts that counts Canada, Mexico and Brazil among its top markets.

“We’ve built at least a dozen [new buildings] since our inception in 1989,” Weber says, adding that such growth has necessitated numerous system and power upgrades. Fortunately, TIEM hasn’t had to go it alone. Thanks to its partnership with Bloomington, Indiana-based Hoosier Energy, TIEM benefits from 24/7 access to an energy provider that’s “responsive to our changing needs,” according to Weber. “As a matter of fact, they just changed out a transformer for me,” he says, laughing.

In addition to providing TIEM with technical assistance, Hoosier Energy also handles the forklift manufacturer’s rate structures and utility rebates. For instance, if TIEM upgrades to more energy-efficient lighting or embarks on another energy-saving initiative, the company is eligible for Hoosier Energy’s rebate program. From a corporate perspective, Weber says such measures have been a major boon to business. “[Hoosier Energy] is a very good entity to work with,” he adds.

Harold Gutzwiller, Hoosier Energy’s manager of Economic Development and key accounts, says his company’s relationship with TIEM highlights the high level of service Hoosier Energy provides customers. “First and foremost, we’re a generation and transmission electric cooperative, which means our board works with large electric energy users on establishing rates to meet individual corporate needs,” he says. Along with incentivizing companies to achieve their energy-efficiency goals, Hoosier Energy offers manufacturers an economic development rider to lower their energy costs over a five-year period. “More typically, however, we can help manufacturers locate buildings and sites,” Gutzwiller says. And it’s this offering that he’s particularly loquacious about.

Since Hoosier Energy serves a largely rural territory, creating new growth opportunities—as well as maintaining the region’s existing manufacturing base—is critical, according to Gutzwiller.

“Communities either grow or slowly fade away,” he says. “As industries go through the growth cycle—and many times decline—new business and industries must take their place.” He says that’s why Hoosier Energy’s economic development initiatives are so vital to the long-term success of the communities it serves. “While we would like to say all of our efforts are altruistic, obviously we need growth of electric sales to keep our rates competitive and attractive,” he adds.

Another utility provider that has taken an active role in economic development is Commonwealth Edison (ComEd). Hector Garcia, head of economic and business development for ComEd, says the Chicago-based company engages with Illinois’ economic development organizations “from start to finish” and designs customized energy plans for large employers coming to the region. “We consider ourselves a key partner in driving job growth and economic vitality in [Chicago and Northern Illinois],” he says.

ComEd is so focused on economic development, in fact, that it sponsors the Rockford Area Economic Development Council’s (RAEDC) business retention program. Under ComEd’s partnership with the RAEDC—the city of Rockford is one of the electric company’s biggest territories—ComEd provides the council with dedicated business retention software for its annual “Voice of the Customer” initiative. “Analysis of RAEDC’s business visits offer real, tangible solutions to improve the regional economy,” Garcia says, which ultimately strengths relationships between local businesses and economic developers. It also puts Northern Illinois on the map for continued business growth, he maintains.
Further propelling business—particularly manufacturing—is

ComEd’s 10-year, $2.6 billion push to modernize Northern Illinois’ power system, a move that comes on the heels of the 2011 passage of the Smart Grid law. Garcia calls the investment a game-changer for local business, saying that it will enhance reliability and ensure the region’s electric infrastructure is equipped to handle the most sophisticated technologies. So far, ComEd has completed more than half of the infrastructure enhancements and installed more than 1 million new digital smart meters. Combined with the more than $440 million in energy-efficiency incentives ComEd has divvied out since 2008, Garcia argues that such upgrades have big implications for local businesses.

Winnebago County-area companies (home to Rockford) have especially benefitted from ComEd’s programs, enjoying more than $7.2 million in total business incentives since 2008. “Our electric utility attributes, along with the region’s assets, help position

Rockford as a destination for business growth,” Garcia says. But like Hoosier Energy’s Harold Gutzwiller, Garcia acknowledges that ComEd’s motivations for economic development aren’t completely philanthropic. “Altogether,” Garcia says, “delivering safe, reliable electricity; educating prospective businesses on the competitive energy market; and offering programs to save on energy are vital to Illinois’ economic growth.” And what’s good for the local economy is good for ComEd’s bottom line.

Not that it’s always that simple, Gutzwiller points out. “Utility-related economic development activities are not for the faint of heart,” he cautions. “Economic development is a long-term proposition and often the return on investment isn’t calculable or even evident.” Because of this, he encourages utility companies to do their due diligence and determine whether their region has sufficient financial and human capital to address ongoing needs before embarking on an economic development initiative. If the answer is yes—such as in the case of Columbus, Indiana’s TIEM—it can result in a win-win situation for all involved.

Logistics Powerhouses

Name-dropping may not be Eric Toriumi’s usual style, but he admits that it comes in handy when describing The Diemasters’ location. The Diemasters—a Chicago-based high-precision metal stamping company that counts Asia and Mexico among its top markets—operates out of Elk Grove Village (EGV)—a distinction, Toriumi says, that has directly contributed to his company’s success. “Many of the international sourcing people I meet [consider] Elk Grove synonymous with quality manufacturing,” he says. “When I tell them that we’re located in Elk Grove, there is a sense of familiarity and [respect].” As The Diemasters’ marketing director, Toriumi says such familiarity makes his job much easier.

Elk Grove Business Development director Josh Grodzin explains that numerous factors attract manufacturing talent to the Illinois industrial park—namely its proximity to major interstates, railroads and the cargo-friendly Chicago O’Hare International Airport. “The classic real estate adage ‘location, location, location’ applies to EGV,” Grodzin says. Plus, the “deep local supply chain” enables businesses at EGV to procure any product or service necessary.

In addition to EGV, below are 19 other business parks and inland ports that stand out from the pack.

Cherry Hill Business Park
Situated less than an hour from EGV, the New Lenox/Joliet, Illinois-based business park offers several key advantages, says investor Michael Connor. Chief among them is Cherry Hill Business Park’s access to two major interstates—I-80 and I-355—which allows park tenants to distribute goods around Chicago and throughout the U.S. “in a quick and efficient manner,” Connor says.

Eastman Business Park
Proximity to key Northeastern markets—including Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.—is one of the Rochester, New York-based park’s biggest draws, says Eastman Business Park director Tim Palmer. Plus, Rochester is a giant in its own right—the city is among the top 30 major metropolitan exporting regions in the U.S.

Freeport Center
Drawing manufacturers to the Utah industrial park is the state’s pro-business tax environment, as well as its favorable geographical position. Utah—dubbed the “Crossroads of the West”—is a freeport state, which means companies can store goods at the Freeport Center without incurring any inventory taxes—a major boon to manufacturers, park officials say.

Great Southwest Industrial Park
Shippers locating at Great Southwest Industrial Park enjoy access to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport—the park is situated less than 10 miles from DFW—without the inflated costs of operating onsite. “All points of export are easily accessible if one locates at Great Southwest,” says Jim Hazard, the park’s executive vice president.

MidAmerica Industrial Park
Home to more than 80 companies—including seven Fortune 500 giants—the 9,000-acre complex clearly has size on its side. Geography is another huge selling point, with the Pryor Creek, Oklahoma-based park positioned near the intersection of I-35, I-40 and I-44—known as “America’s Crossroads.” Such a location allows next-day delivery from MidAmerica to 23 percent of the U.S. population.

Pureland Industrial Complex
With its own short-line railroad onsite (SMS Rail), it’s no surprise that the Bridgeport, New Jersey-based complex is known for its supply chain efficiency. Pureland is also only 12 miles from the ports of Camden and Philadelphia and boasts access to three major highways—benefits, park officials say, that help shippers get their products to market faster.

Raritan Center Business Park
Like Pureland—its neighbor to the south— Edison, New Jersey-based Raritan Center Business Park benefits from a stellar transportation infrastructure. Two Class I railroads provide direct service to the complex, and the Raritan Center is within 20 miles of both Port Newark Marine Terminal and Newark Liberty International Airport, as well as adjacent to the New Jersey Turnpike.

Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center
The Nevada-based complex’s “superb location”—less than four hours from San Francisco—enables shippers to utilize Bay Area ports without operating out of costly California, says Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center Principle and Director Lance Gilman. “We also have two dedicated freeway interchanges on I-80,” he says, “which is the central logistics corridor to the West Coast.”

White Hawk Commerce Park
Location is the Florence, South Carolina, park’s biggest asset, with White Hawk Commerce Park situated within one day’s drive from 75 percent of the U.S. population, as well as several key seaports. South Carolina Ports Authority CEO Jim Newsome says driving traffic in South Carolina is the state’s “resurgence in manufacturing, coupled with worldwide demand for agriculture products.”

America’s Central Port
Living up to its name, America’s Central Port is 10 minutes north of downtown St. Louis—the heart of the U.S. transportation sector. Port spokeswoman Megan Dittman says this “premier location” provides tenants with immediate access to the Mississippi River, four interstates as well as six Class I railroads.
CenterPoint Intermodal Center

Boasting unparalleled size—CenterPoint Intermodal Center (CIC)-Joliet/Elwood is America’s largest master-planned inland port—and geography, CIC is “strategically positioned” at the epicenter of the Midwestern transportation corridor, says CenterPoint Properties’ Senior Vice President Brian McKiernan. In fact, more than $43 billion in imports and $56 billion in exports currently pass within 10 miles of the Illinois port.

Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center Florida’s newest logistics hub—the Winter Haven port centralizes trade volumes from Orlando, Tampa and South Florida—Central Florida ILC is a “game-changer” for global shippers, port officials say. CSX Transportation directly serves the port and offers high-speed rail access to major seaport markets such as Long Beach, California; Savannah, Georgia; Memphis, Tennessee; Charleston, South Carolina; and Newark, New Jersey.

International Port of Memphis
Buoying business at the International Port of Memphis is its proximity to Memphis International Airport—the No. 2 cargo airport in the world and FedEx’s global hub. The port’s transportation infrastructure is also first-rate, with the International Port of Memphis directly connected to five Class I railroads, a major interstate and the Mississippi River.

Logistics Park Kansas City
Strategically located in America’s heartland, the Edgerton, Kansas-based port features the largest rail center in the U.S. by tonnage, according to Patrick Robinson, vice president of Development for LPKC operator NorthPoint Development. “Tenants at LPKC have the advantage of direct use of BNSF Railway’s Intermodal Facility, significant savings on drayage rates and convenient interstate highway access,” Robinson says.

Midwest Inland Port
Although still in the developmental phase, the Decatur, Illinois-based port is already creating a lot of buzz. “Unlike most other inland ports, Midwest Inland Port [can] provide quality and consistent services for exporters,” Executive Director Larry Altenbaumer says, since agricultural giant ADM dispatches more than 7,000 rail cars each month from Decatur.

Port of West Sacramento
Centered in one of the world’s richest agricultural regions, the Port of West Sacramento specializes in bulk cargo and heavy machinery. The port is also within a quarter mile of three major highways—which Terminal Manager Frank Patalano says enables shippers to “easily access the Port of West Sacramento to have their goods exported abroad.”

Rickenbacker Inland Port
Cargo comes to the Columbus, Ohio-based port from all corners of the Earth, says Columbus Regional Airport Authority’s David Whitaker, thanks to the presence of Norfolk Southern’s Rickenbacker Intermodal Terminal, the cargo-dedicated Rickenbacker International Airport and a foreign-trade zone. “We can safely, reliably and efficiently ship anything anywhere via any mode of transportation,” Whitaker says.

Virginia Inland Port
The nation’s first inland port, Front Royal-based Virginia Inland Port serves as a template for other intermodal facilities, says spokesman Jay Stecher. Propelling VIP’s freight volumes is five-times-weekly rail service at Norfolk International Terminals and Virginia International Gateway—which, Stecher says “reduces congestion, reduces emissions and increases service levels at the port.”

Wylie Intermodal Terminal
Relatively new to the intermodal scene—port operations only commenced last summer—Kansas City Southern Railway’s (KCSR) Wylie Intermodal Terminal is addressing strong border traffic between the U.S. and Mexico, reveals KCSR’s Doniele Carlson. “The new terminal creates opportunity for planned economic growth,” she adds, “and makes [Dallas suburb] Collin County, Texas, even more competitive to shippers.”

America’s Top Intermodal Facilities

Centrality is key when operating a distribution center, which is precisely why Kubota Tractor Corp. selected Edgerton, Kansas—a.k.a. the “Heart of America”—as the site of its new, 765,000-square-foot warehouse. Earl Johnson, Kubota’s senior director for Parts and Product Resources, says another factor compelled the agricultural equipment manufacturer to relocate to Edgerton: the presence of BNSF Railway’s Logistics Park Kansas City (LPKC) Intermodal Facility.

Moving to the industrial park was highly strategic, Johnson says, since BNSF carries much of Kubota’s ocean imports from Asia and Europe, as well as the company’s Canadian, European and Australian parts exports. “By streamlining our operations [and locating along BNSF’s transcontinental corridor], we’re realizing efficiencies in receiving and processing shipments and improving our parts delivery support to make sure our customers have access to the equipment they need when they need it,” Johnson says.

Patrick Robinson, vice president of Development for LPKC operator NorthPoint Development, says Kubota’s move is indicative of a global trend, with more shippers establishing hubs at inland ports. After all, he says, the benefits of doing so are immense; such ports streamline companies’ supply chain operations by enabling them to ship cargo inland from coastal seaports more efficiently. “Instead of seaports storing freight at local storage facilities, they directly transfer freight to a train to send to inland ports,” Robinson says, “thus avoiding bottlenecks.”

LPKC, for instance, regularly sees transfer freight from Southern California, the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest—which Robinson says is a testament to the port’s “convenient and strategic location.” Plus, the intermodal facility, which opened in September 2013, distinguishes itself as the only full-service facility in the western two-thirds of the U.S. offering international and domestic intermodal services, as well as direct-rail and carload services. The capacity at LKPC is also unmatched, Robinson says: Currently, the port can accommodate 500,000 container lifts annually—and that volume is projected to swell to 1.5 million at full build-out.

For shippers, utilizing an intermodal port like LPKC just makes sense logistically, in Robinson’s opinion. “Inland ports give businesses the opportunity to ship freight more effectively,” he says. “And with rising fuel costs, over-the-road truck driver shortages and hours-of-service restrictions, moving freight by rail is a faster and cheaper alternative than moving freight by truck.”

In addition to LPKC, below are four other inland ports to watch.

North America’s largest master-planned inland port, CenterPoint Intermodal Center (CIC)-Joliet/Elwood is situated at the heart of the Midwestern transportation corridor, maintains CenterPoint Properties’ senior vice president Brian McKiernan. The Illinois-based complex encompasses more than 6,500 acres of rail- and highway-adjacent land and includes both BNSF and Union Pacific intermodal parks—a major boon to local logistics firms and retailers, McKiernan adds. “The Chicagoland area is a national transportation nexus,” he says, “providing shippers direct access to markets throughout the Midwest, as well as transportation networks to efficiently reach population centers from coast to coast.” More than $56 billion in exports and $43 billion in imports currently pass within a 10-mile radius of Joliet, putting CIC at the epicenter of domestic trade activity, he notes.

With 47 percent of the U.S. population and 33 percent of Canada accessible within one trucking day, Rickenbacker boasts an “unparalleled” geographic position, says Columbus Regional Airport Authority’s David Whitaker. Propelling trade at the Columbus, Ohio-based port is the cargo-dedicated Rickenbacker International Airport, Norfolk Southern’s Rickenbacker Intermodal Terminal and more than 60 million square feet of warehousing space. “Cargo literally comes to us from every point of the world,” Whitaker says, with goods running the gamut from electronics and fashion items to pharmaceuticals and automotive supplies. Rickenbacker also got a major boost in October when international carriers Cathay Pacific Cargo and Emirates SkyCargo ramped up services to the airport—proof, Whitaker says, of the region’s status as a global cargo hub.

Despite being the proverbial new kid on the block—port operations only commenced in July—Wylie Intermodal Terminal (WIT) has already made a big splash in the global logistics sector. Kansas City Southern Railway’s (KCS) $64 million intermodal facility, which sits in the Dallas suburb of Wylie, replaces the rail authority’s previous terminal and is poised to take advantage of strong border traffic between the U.S. and Mexico, reveals Doniele Carlson, KCS assistant vice president. “The new terminal significantly increases the capacity previously available at KCS’s Dallas-area terminal, creating opportunity for planned economic growth and development, and making Collin County, Texas, even more competitive for shippers looking to locate new operations,” Carlson says. WIT’s annual lift capacity stands at 342,000 units.

Often overshadowed by the logistics powerhouse that is Memphis International Airport—the FedEx Express hub currently ranks as the No. 2 cargo airport in the world—the International Port of Memphis is also a major force. The fifth-largest inland port in the nation, the Port of Memphis serves more than 150 industries and regularly sees volumes of grains, petroleum, tar, cement and steel, officials reveal. Propelling business is Memphis’ transportation infrastructure—the port can connect to sea, rail, road and air via the Mississippi River, five Class 1 railroads, a major interstate and FedEx, respectively.

“Cargo is really the driving force behind the local economy,” says Memphis airport CEO Scott Brockman, as it contributes roughly $23 billion a year to Memphis’ economy. And much of it is attributable to the city’s intermodal port, Brockman acknowledges.

Why We Love These 20 Ports

They say love is a fickle thing, but our affection for these ports runs deep—as deep, perhaps, as the ports themselves. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, and all across the Gulf, the 20 ports below stand out for their commitment to excellence and status as hubs for international trade and innovation in the global sea-freight sector. Below, officials share what makes their ports stand out from the competition.

“Going green” is more than just corporate jargon at the Port of Long Beach; it’s a way of life, says port CEO Jon Slangerup. The Southern California port effectively reduced diesel emissions by 82 percent from 2005 to 2013—a major milestone in its quest to become the world’s first zero-emissions port. Green initiatives aside, the Port of Long Beach is a major hub for Chinese trade and distinguishes itself as the “fastest, most direct route from East Asia to most U.S. markets,” Slangerup says. Long Beach will soon boast another title: home to Middle Harbor, North America’s most technologically advanced container terminal. Completion is slated for 2016.

The Port of Long Beach’s twin port—together, they handle 40 percent of all U.S. imports—the Port of Los Angeles is the nation’s top container port. Ensuring that the port has the capacity to remain in the No.1 spot led officials to embark on a $1.2 billion infrastructure improvement program, reveals port spokesman Phillip Sanfield. Key initiatives include the TraPac Container Terminal Expansion—a five-year project that will deepen the terminal’s berths, install new cranes and build a new on-dock rail facility—as well as the Transportation Improvements Program that, Sanfield says, will improve freeway access to port facilities and eliminate traffic movement conflicts.

Handling more than 98 percent of the containerized traffic that enters Northern California, the Port of Oakland is a global hub for wine, high-tech and agricultural goods. Port spokesman Roberto Bernardo believes the port’s volumes will only grow in the future, thanks to the redevelopment of the former Oakland Army Base into a major logistics and warehousing center. Phase 1 of the $500 million project is nearly complete, Bernardo says, and involves the construction of a new rail yard connected to both Union Pacific and BNSF Railway. “We envision a state-of-the-art global trade and logistics center to make the port more globally competitive,” he says.

Innovation and renovation are two of the Port of Houston’s guiding principles, says port spokeswoman Lisa Ashley. Every five years, port authorities invest $1 billion in infrastructure improvements—the most recent involves dredging channels at the Barbours Cut and Bayport Container terminals to accommodate the port’s four new Super Post-Panamax cranes. “[Our goal] is to be considered America’s distribution hub for the next generation,” Ashley says, a status propelled by the port’s favorable geographic position. “With a reach of nearly 40 million consumers in 500 miles, we consider the Port of Houston as the gateway to all of the U.S. and North America,” she says.

America’s largest tonnage port district, the Port of South Louisiana extends 54 miles along the Mississippi River and is connected to three Class I railroads. “Cost and time are our advantages,” says executive director Paul Aucoin. He reveals that the port is currently benefiting from $25 billion in corporate investments—many of which are from foreign companies—that will create 2,753 direct jobs with an average salary of $66,000. The Port of South Louisiana is also undertaking a market study to determine the profitability of a container port within its jurisdiction. “We’re confident that the results will be positive,” Aucoin says.


PORT OF NEW ORLEANS Talk about having connections—Port of New Orleans is served by six Class I railroads, 16 barge lines, 50 ocean carriers and 75 truck lines.
PORT OF NEW ORLEANS Talk about having connections—Port of New Orleans is served by six Class I railroads, 16 barge lines, 50 ocean carriers and 75 truck lines.

What sets the Port of New Orleans apart from the competition is intermodality, says President and CEO Gary LaGrange. “We’re America’s most intermodal port,” he says, served by six Class I railroads, 16 barge lines, 50 ocean carriers and 75 truck lines. The Port of New Orleans has been lavished with more than $500 million in infrastructure and terminal enhancements in the past decade with a further $40 million currently being invested in the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal’s handling capabilities. Such advancements are needed due to “surging demand” for refrigerated cargo, LaGrange says, a direct result of banana giant Chiquita’s resumption of services to New Orleans after a 40-year hiatus.

As good as 2014 was for the Port of New York and New Jersey—container volumes swelled 5.4 percent, year-over-year—officials say the future is even brighter. Thanks to a host of new investments, such as raising the Bayonne Bridge by 64 feet and deepening the port’s harbor to 50 feet, the East Coast’s busiest port will soon be
able to handle the world’s largest ships, port spokesman Lenis Rodrigues reveals. All marine terminals are also benefitting from expanded on-dock rail access—a move, Rodrigues says, that “increases speed and efficiency by which cargo moves once it reaches the port while simultaneously reducing congestion and air emissions.”

Cars are the Port of Baltimore’s bread and butter, maintains communications director Richard Scher. “Nearly every auto manufacturer in the world brings their cars through Baltimore,” he says, attributing that to port’s geography and strong cargo infrastructure. The closest East Coast port to the Midwest, the Port of Baltimore is only one of two in the region (the other of which is listed above) capable of handling Super Post-Panamex ships. Add this to the fact that the port boasts the region’s fastest truck turn times and handled record-breaking container volumes in 2015, and Scher says it’s easy to see why Baltimore is in a “very competitive” position.

PORTMIAMI PortMiami has a new interstate tunnel and an on-dock intermodal rail partnership with Florida East Coast Railway, which links the port to 70 percent of the U.S. population in four days or less.
PORTMIAMI PortMiami has a new interstate tunnel and an on-dock intermodal rail partnership with Florida East Coast Railway, which links the port to 70 percent of the U.S. population in four days or less.

September was a banner month for PortMiami, reveals port spokeswoman Andria Muniz-Amador. In addition to commemorating the completion of its deep dredge project—a feat, Muniz-Amador says, that makes PortMiami the only global logistics hub south of Virginia capable of handling fully laden Post-Panamax vessels—the port celebrated its new interstate tunnel and on-dock intermodal rail partnership with Florida East Coast Railway. Muniz-Amador calls the latter achievement a major win for PortMiami, linking it to 70 percent of the U.S. population in four days or less.

“We are continuously working to put the infrastructure in place to provide the world’s top ocean carriers the best quality of service,” she says.

Improving shipping efficiency and ensuring that the port has the capacity to handle the influx of container traffic to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, led officials to initiate a number of infrastructure enhancements. Port Everglades, which is a key gateway for Latin American and Caribbean trade, now boasts the 43-acre Florida East Coast Railway intermodal hub, as well as a $42.5 million overpass to connect the east end of Interstate 595 directly to the port’s main entrance. “Landside congestion plagues many seaports, but Port Everglades is fortunate to have direct interstate highway access that keeps commerce on the move,” says CEO Steve Cernak.

Flexibility is one of Port Tampa Bay’s biggest strengths, says spokesman Andrew Forbes, with the port able to handle a “full array” of cargo volumes. This capability will only grow in 2016, thanks to the delivery of two Post-Panamex cranes, which should be fully operational by late spring, and new berth construction at the port’s Eastport Development. Port Tampa Bay will also soon feature a large refrigerated warehouse—an addition that Forbes says could reestablish it as a hub for temperature-sensitive freight. Renovations to the onsite Port Redwing may diversify the port’s handling capabilities even further, with the 150-acre site projected to become a steel industry cluster.

In September, German automaker Porsche announced JAXPORT as its port of entry for Southeastern-bound goods—a move that came seven months after Volkswagen selected it as its Southeastern distribution hub. Spokeswoman Nancy Rubin says one of JAXPORT’s biggest draws is its geography, with the Jacksonville, Florida, port situated at the heart of the U.S. transportation corridor and boasting access to three Class I railroads and three major interstates. Rubin expects the port’s new $30 million intermodal container transfer facility—slated to open in early 2016—to similarly entice shippers, in addition to “complementing existing on-dock rail facilities and enhancing the competitiveness of the adjacent TraPac Container Terminal.”

Fiscal-year 2015 saw the Port of Virginia handle more than 2.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of cargo—a volume that places the port among the nation’s top five. Retaining this status led authorities to embark upon a 10-year, $2 billion infrastructure improvement plan in July, which will reinvest in the port’s six terminals, as well as its cargo conveyance systems. Virginia Port Authority CEO John Reinhart says this undertaking, along with the port’s federal authorization to dredge to 55 feet, will ensure that the Port of Virginia “increases its capacity and [retains] its competitive position on the U.S. East Coast.”

Early 2016 marks a significant milestone for the Port of Galveston: Luxury automaker BMW will open its onsite vehicle distribution center, a facility that will import and process approximately 32,500 vehicles annually. “This [center] helps the port achieve its mission of being the economic engine for the city of Galveston and the local region,” says port director Michael Mierzwa. The Port of Galveston, which impacts Texas’ economy by more than $3.8 billion a year, is buoyed by the presence of two Class I railroads and a strong highway network, Mierzwa says. And he expects Grimaldi Lines’ new roll-on/roll-off service linking Galveston to West Africa to further boost port operations.

For a port that aims to become the “Energy Port of America,” it’s no surprise that the Port of Corpus Christi is the preferred harbor for wind turbine components. The Texas port’s chief commercial officer Jarl Pedersen says that achieving this and other goals led to a $1 billion infrastructure investment program, which will initiate a series of renovations over the next decade. Key improvements include deepening the ship channel to 52 feet and building a new rail yard with 8,500-foot-long sidings that can accommodate eight unit trains; Phase Two of the latter initiative is currently under way, Pedersen reveals.

A lack of congestion is one of Port Canaveral’s biggest assets, with only one stoplight between Interstate 95 and the port dock. Other major draws to the Central Florida port are coming soon; Port Canaveral is currently constructing a 246,240-square-foot inland port facility (part of the multitenant Titusville Logistics Center), as well as developing a major logistics park with up to 3 million square feet of warehousing space. Phase 1 of the logistics park is slated for mid-2017 completion while the inland port facility will open in early 2016. CEO John Walsh calls the latter facility, in particular, “a critical step in Port Canaveral’s plan to attract more container business.”

Situated in the “Hostess City of the South,” the Port of Savannah is undergoing renovations to accommodate its visitors even more. Thanks to the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, the port’s 18.5-mile outer harbor will be deepened to 49 feet at low tide; a future contract involves dredging the inner harbor to 47 feet. “Improving our harbor will better accommodate Super Post-Panamax vessels,” says Georgia Ports Authority spokesman Edward Fulford, “which offer cost savings to shipping lines, American retailers and U.S. manufacturers marketing goods overseas.” The Port of Savannah will also soon welcome four new ship-to-shore cranes, bringing its total number of electric-powered container cranes to 26—the most of any U.S. terminal.

One half of the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA)—the ports of Seattle and Tacoma finalized their cargo partnership in August—the Port of Tacoma is a major hub for Alaskan and Asian trade. Buoying business, says NWSA CEO John Wolfe, is the Port of Tacoma’s transportation infrastructure, which offers direct access to two Class I railroads and “excellent” connections to the West Coast’s second-largest concentration of distribution centers. “And we’re grateful to the Washington legislature, which recently passed a $16.2 billion transportation investment package that will improve freight mobility beyond our terminal gates,” Wolfe says—as well as help the NWSA achieve its goal of doubling container volumes by 2025.

Convenience, reliability and service are the cornerstones of Massport’s success, maintains acting Port Director Lisa Wieland. And Massport—which owns and operates the Port of Boston’s Conley Terminal—is currently investing in infrastructure improvements to ensure than none of these values are compromised. Along with deepening the Boston Harbor’s channels—a $350 million undertaking—Massport is constructing a $75 million freight corridor that will take truck traffic off of residential streets and facilitate future growth—a project slated to launch in 2017. “Plus,” Wieland says, “we’ve recently received a Northeast Diesel Collaborative Breathe Easy Leadership award for reducing diesel emissions and promoting clean transportation in the Northeast.”

The Columbia River’s first full-service port, the Washington-based Port of Longview benefits from a stellar transportation infrastructure—with access to two Class I railroads and a major interstate—as well as its proximity to key Asian markets. Growing trade volumes led port officials to recently purchase Barlow Point, a 280-acre property that sits four river miles from its main facility. “It’s extremely rare to find such a large, undeveloped piece of land on a deep-water shipping channel, and the port is finalizing a master plan so that we can best use the property to create revenue, jobs and tax dollars,” says spokeswoman Ashley Helenberg.

America’s Top Containerports

Sea freight in the U.S. appears to be going swimmingly. The nation currently handles more than 2 billion tonnes of cargo at its domestic ports and waterways—and the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) experts anticipate sea-freight volumes doubling from 2001 totals by 2020.

Shipping goods by sea just makes sense logistically, industry insiders explain. Not only is it significantly cheaper than flying cargo, it provides companies with much more flexibility in regards to shipping regulations; even some dangerous goods can float. Kurt Nagle, AAPA president and CEO, calls sea freight indispensable to the U.S. economy, commenting that ports connect American manufacturers to the global marketplace.

Below are the 25 container ports that are handling the bulk of these cargo loads in descending order:

Buoyed by its proximity to several major highways as well as a top-notch rail system, the Port of Los Angeles is North America’s leading seaport. Port spokeswoman Rachel Campbell reveals that $290 billion in trade was facilitated in 2014, with China being the port’s biggest trading partner; Japan, South Korea and Taiwan trailed China, respectively. Of the port’s main imports, furniture, automobile parts, apparel, electronics and footwear topped the list.

The Port of Los Angeles’ twin port—together, they handle 40 percent of all U.S. imports—the Port of Long Beach is also a major hub for Chinese trade. Port CEO Jon Slangerup says that most of Long Beach’s imports are “headed to U.S. retailers and, ultimately, American consumers.” More than two-thirds of these items leave the port by train—thanks to the Port of Long Beach’s proximity to two Class I railroads.

Turning limitations into assets led Port of New York and New Jersey authorities to recently deepen the port’s harbor to 50 feet and raise the Bayonne Bridge by 64 feet. Previously, the port’s infrastructure restricted larger container ships, admits Richard Larrabee, director of Port Commerce. The port is also benefiting from a $700 million investment in on-dock rail infrastructure, which streamlines the handling of the region’s key vehicle, plastic and wood pulp exports.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance—the newly formed cargo partnership between the ports of Seattle and Tacoma—offers shorter U.S.-to-Asia transit times, as well as “deep” connections to Alaska, says CEO John Wolfe. By joining forces, the neighboring ports—and once bitter rivals—can offset competition from Canadian and Southern Californian ports and grow the Pacific Northwest’s container traffic, Wolfe explains. In fact, he aims to nearly double the ports’ freight volumes by 2026.

Location is the Port of Savannah’s key advantage, with the port situated within a four-hour drive of Atlanta; Orlando, Fla.; and Charlotte, N.C. The Port of Savannah further distinguishes itself as one of the nation’s only ports to have two Class I railroads on terminal, reveals the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Tom Croteau. Such assets have helped the port achieve its recent milestone: handling 40 percent of all containerized U.S. poultry exports.

Fast transit times from Asia, as well as recent investments by local Class I railroads, have benefitted the Port of Oakland tremendously, says port spokesman Michael Zampa. “We’re well connected to the global supply chain,” he says, adding that the port regularly exports fruits and alcoholic beverages and imports computers and phone equipment. The port is also growing, Zampa reveals, and is currently developing more than 300 acres of adjacent property.

Modernization is the name of the game for the Port of Virginia, which is in the midst of a massive renovation. Virginia Port Authority spokesman Joe Harris reveals that the port was recently given the green light to add capacity to its terminals—at least a $2 billion undertaking—in addition to receiving federal authorization to dredge to 55 feet. No other East Coast port has this capacity, Harris says.

The real estate maxim “location, location, location” perfectly explains the Port of Houston’s success, says port spokeswoman Lisa Ashley. Situated squarely on the Gulf Coast, the port is within 500 miles of nearly 40 million consumers and boasts extensive rail and highway connectivity. The Americas, North Europe and Africa/the Middle East account for the port’s top export markets, with volumes of plastics, chemicals, machinery, and oil and gas equipment particularly high.

The deepest port from Wilmington, N.C., to Jacksonville, Fla., the Port of Charleston receives an average of 11 Post-Panamax ship calls each week, says South Carolina Ports Authority CEO Jim Newsome. After all, he says, “Our harbor depth allows Charleston to handle Post-Panamax ships fully loaded with heavy export containers.” Northern Europe and Northeast Asia comprise the port’s top export markets, with forest materials, agricultural products and chemicals accounting for the majority of these loads.

Linking Hawaii to East Asia, the Pacific Rim and the contiguous U.S., the port serves as a global shipping point for a variety of carriers. Honolulu Harbor currently handles more than 11 million tonnes of cargo each year and counts petroleum, machinery and groceries among its most traded items. The rate of imports versus exports is severely skewed, however, since Hawaii imports roughly 80 percent of its goods.

Long recognized as a cruise ship hub, Port Everglades became a major force in the cargo sector when it opened a new, 41-acre container terminal in 2010. Port Director Steve Cernak says the South Florida port’s geographic position is particularly enticing to shippers, since 70 percent of the U.S. population is located within four trucking days of the port. Grocery products and fabrics top the list of Port Everglades’ exports.

December marks the month JAXPORT will finally open its $30 million intermodal container transfer facility. CEO Brian Taylor says this structure will enable shippers to move their freight directly from the maritime terminal to local trains—an offering made possible by JAXPORT’s proximity to three Class I railroads. Traffic-wise, the Northern Florida port sees a great deal of activity from China—consumer electronics imports are particularly strong—and remains Puerto Rico’s top trading port.

PortMiami’s infrastructure is undergoing massive renovations, reveals the port’s spokeswoman Andria Muniz-Amador. In addition to deepening its main harbor channel—which will enable PortMiami to berth larger vessels that arrive to the East Coast via the soon-to-be widened Panama Canal—the port has introduced new on-dock intermodal rail service. Such changes will improve Miami’s connectivity to Asia and Europe, as well as boost service to its key Caribbean and Latin American markets.

Along with boasting the region’s fastest truck turn times, the Port of Boston is only one of two East Coast ports capable of handling the world’s biggest ships, according to Director of Communications Richard Scher. The port got a further boost in July when Maersk recommenced services to it after a nearly two-decade-long hiatus. Maersk’s return is expected to grow Baltimore’s freight volumes—including its sugar and aluminum imports and construction machinery exports—considerably.

Recent traffic challenges notwithstanding, port Director Steve Ribuffo says the Port of Anchorage is “open for business every day.” Buoying the port’s operations is direct access to one Class II railroad, strong highways connections and close proximity to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, the No. 5 cargo airport in the world. China, Japan and South Korea comprise the port’s biggest trading partners, with petroleum, wood products and steel accounting for Anchorage’s key loads.

What sets the Port of New Orleans apart from the competition is its transportation infrastructure, says Director of External Affairs Matt Gresham. He calls it “America’s most intermodal port,” served by six Class I railroads, more than 50 ocean carriers and 75 truck lines. Twenty million square feet of dedicated freight space also enables port personnel to handle New Orleans’ surging poultry and chemical exports, as well as steel and coffee imports.

The 194-acre Southport Marine Terminal Complex is arguably the biggest thing to happen to the Port of Philadelphia in decades. Although Southport won’t open until 2017, port officials say the complex—which benefits from strong road and rail connectivity—will boost the port’s traffic significantly. Currently, the Port of Philadelphia exports the majority of its cargo to Australia, Turkey and Vietnam—with machinery and meats topping the list of commodities.

The Mid-Atlantic port bears a unique distinction: “We’re the No.1 banana port in North America,” says John Haroldson, manager of International Trade. Fruit giants Dole and Chiquita operate weekly freight services to Wilmington from Central and South America and the port receives Chilean fruit shipments during winter months. Driving traffic to Wilmington is the port’s “suburb” Mid-Atlantic location, Haroldson says, since it’s three hours closer to the Atlantic than Philadelphia.

Geography is one of the Port of Wilmington’s biggest advantages, officials say. Along with being located within 700 miles of more than 70 percent of America’s industrial base, the Southeastern port has access to three major roadways and one Class I railroad. China, Germany and the U.K. account for the port’s biggest trading partners, with key imports including motor vehicle parts and fertilizers and top exports comprising bombs, grenades and raw tobacco.

The Port of Palm Beach may be small—spanning just 162 acres—but what it lacks in size it makes up for in efficiency, according to Manuel Almira, the port’s executive director. “We’re known as the lifeline to the Caribbean,” Almira says, since 80 percent of all island-bound freight passes through the South Floridian port. Key loads include food products, asphalt, diesel fuel, sugar and molasses, he adds.

The port’s Mobile Container Terminal—which sees high volumes of coal, aluminum and iron imports, as well as frozen poultry and paper exports—is in serious expansion mode. Thanks to a $40 million investment by station owner APM Terminals, the terminal will soon feature two new Super-Post Panamax cranes and an intermodal container transfer facility accessible to five Class I railroads; the latter is slated for completion in early 2016.

Conley Terminal—the Massport-owned container facility located at the Port of Boston—boasts a stellar transportation infrastructure, says Massport acting port director Lisa Wieland. In addition to being situated less than five miles from Boston Logan International Airport, Conley Terminal features a dedicated haul road to two major interstates. The terminal also offers weekly services to North Europe and Latin America—significantly boosting New England’s trade volumes.

Fruit, apparel and cotton exports to Central and South America have always been the Port of Gulfport’s bread-and-butter, but the Mississippi-based port has recently added oil and gas equipment to its product portfolio, reveals community relations specialist Kimberly Aguillard. In addition to diversifying its cargo base, the port is also building an intermodal container transfer facility and three new ship-to-shore gantry cranes—part of a $570 million expansion, Aguillard says.

Although business may be down since Hanjin and Hapag-Lloyd withdrew container service to Portland in February, don’t count the Oregon port out, says spokesman Kenny Macdonald. Portland still features a strong transportation infrastructure, with two Class I rail lines, two major interstates and airfreight connectivity to Asia and Europe via Portland International Airport. Port officials are currently working to attract new services to Asia, Europe and Latin America, Macdonald reveals.

California’s southernmost port, the Port of San Diego serves as the gateway to Latin America and the Pacific Rim, says the port’s spokeswoman Tanya Castaneda. “We’re well positioned logistically to maximize connectivity,” she adds, revealing that the port’s National City terminal is positioned only 10 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. This proximity has boosted containerized freight volumes, with fresh produce and construction materials comprising the majority of the port’s loads.

Texas-Sized Opportunities

They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and Portacool CEO Ben Wulf says this mantra certainly rings true from a business perspective. Portacool—a global manufacturer of portable evaporative cooling systems—has called Center, Texas, home for 25 years, a distinction, Wulf says, that has directly contributed to the company’s success. Locating near Dallas just makes sense logistically, he says, since it allows Portacool to reach any U.S. port within two business days. Not only does this expedite shipments to the company’s domestic partners, it also enables Portacool to supply its Dubai- and Barcelona-based distribution centers faster.

Portacool executives are so keen on Texas, in fact, that they’ve “conscientiously decided” to keep all production and distribution in-state, Wulf says. He credits Texas’ pro-business environment as a key reason for this, explaining that the state’s favorable economic policies and low taxes allow Portacool to manufacture goods at home. Plus, he says, Texas’ highly trained workforce ensures production is done efficiently.

Texas Economic Development Corp. CEO Tracye McDaniel also lauds Texas’ workforce, commenting that the state’s 36 public universities and 50 community college districts feed a strong pipeline of talent into the state. “It’s one of the many reasons that companies choose Texas,” McDaniel says, adding that the state boasts the 12th largest economy in the world.

From an infrastructure standpoint, Texas also stands out from the pack. In addition to housing Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport—the fifth-largest cargo airport in the nation—Texas features the highest concentration of public roads and freight railroads in the U.S. “The state’s world-class port infrastructure is another major draw for international companies looking to export goods on a large scale,” McDaniel says, with the Port of Houston seeing the bulk of Texas’ loads.

Port of Houston Authority’s Lisa Ashley attributes the port’s “strategic Gulf Coast location” with this phenomenon. As the largest container port in the region, the Port of Houston connects shippers to markets around the globe—at a reasonable rate, according to Ashley. Along with reduced logistics costs, businesses operating out of the port enjoy streamlined importation and exportation processes, she explains.

And the latter, McDaniel says, is critical to shippers, since Texas has ranked as the nation’s top exporter since 2002. Last year alone, the state exported $289 billion in goods—with Europe and South America among the key import markets. Texas’ recipe for success is simple, McDaniel says: “We offer unbeatable advantages for companies looking to export products overseas—and our strategic geographic position puts companies in an ideal location to distribute goods.”

Also advantageous to businesses is Texas’ regulatory environment. McDaniel reveals that state lawmakers have cut the approval time for new business launches from 90 days to 30 days and have reauthorized the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF). Calling the latter “the largest deal-closing fund of its kind,” McDaniel says the TEF has created significant investment in Texas by offering cash grants to projects that create jobs and pit Texas sites against out-of-state options. So far, the TEF has awarded more than 100 grants totaling $500 million to Texas companies.

McDaniel says other key incentives include the Texas Enterprise Zone Program—which divvies out state sales and use tax refunds for projects in economically distressed areas—and the Texas Skills Development Fund, which finances job training programs for new and existing employees. When it comes to attracting investment and jobs, Texas’ incentives have been among the state’s greatest assets, McDaniel says.

It’s a sentiment shared by Portacool’s Ben Wulf. “The business climate here allows us to optimize our supply chain,” he says, “and we’re proud to say we’re born and bred in Texas. That’s where our products have been made and will continue to be made in the future.”

Laws of Attraction

Logistically, Richmond, Virginia, offered numerous advantages over Stamford, Connecticut, says Tucker McNeil, communications director of WestRock, the company formed from the recent MeadWestvaco (MWV)/Rock-Tenn merger. The nearby Port of Norfolk would allow MWV to easily export its U.S.-manufactured packaging goods; plus, access to talent was considerable, given Virginia’s expansive university system. But what really gave Virginia an edge, McNeil says, is the state’s friendliness to business—a fact highlighted by Virginia’s numerous tax breaks and favorable regulatory policies.

Moving a company’s headquarters is no small task, but McNeil says it was well worth it for MWV since Stamford is a notoriously expensive city. So nine years ago MVW did just that—and the global packaging company continues to operate in Virginia under the WestRock umbrella. (The company’s Rock-Tenn arm still has a presence in Georgia.)

Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s (VEDP) Suzanne Clark says MWV’s decision to relocate wasn’t surprising, considering Virginia’s slew of business incentives. “Our state views incentives as an investment in its economic future and as a basis for a rational business decision for both the Commonwealth and the companies,” Clark says. Particularly beneficial to business are the state’s “extremely competitive” sales and use tax exemptions, she says, as well as VEDP’s Virginia Jobs Investment Program. The latter initiative offers customized recruiting and training assistance to companies creating new jobs or experiencing technological changes, Clark explains—adding that VEDP helps companies seeking a prime business location foster international trade growth.

Other popular incentives include the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund, which has helped companies secure Virginia business locations for nearly two decades, and the Virginia Investment Partnership (VIP) Grant, a discretionary performance incentive that encourages Virginia companies to continue making capital investments; such a program, Clark says, results in increased capacity, productivity and modernization. All things considered, she says, “Virginia’s robust incentives help attract new business and support and encourage the growth of companies in the Commonwealth.”

In addition to Virginia, here are five other states that use incentives to attract new business:

There’s a reason 20 Fortune 500 companies call Georgia home, says Tom Croteau, deputy commissioner of Global Commerce for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. In addition to housing several prestigious universities, the state facilitates a well-trained workforce through its top-ranked Georgia Quick Start program, which provides industry-specific job training. “We hear time and again from companies that the reason they chose Georgia was due to the skilled workers found here,” Croteau notes. Such competencies have especially benefitted Georgia’s manufacturing sector, which has witnessed exponential growth lately. The state’s sales and use tax exemption on energy used in manufacturing is a key incentive for companies, Croteau says, “distinguishing Georgia from the competition.”

The Great Lakes State doesn’t just offer incentives, asserts Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) CEO Steve Arwood; Michigan has reinvented the incentive process, he says. Instead of offering tax credits that provide future savings based on jobs and investment targets, the MEDC has programs that deliver immediate cash benefit, Arwood reveals. Couple these initiatives with Michigan’s low, 6 percent corporate income tax and the state’s elimination of the personal property tax—and Arwood argues it’s easy to see that “Michigan offers one of the best pro-business environments in the country.” Each year, the state doles out $170 million in incentives and assistance; plus, $100 million is available in loans to small and midsize businesses in Michigan.

The Minnesota Job Creation Fund may be the proverbial new kid on the block, but it’s already proven to be a game-changer, says Kevin McKinnon, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Since its January 2014 launch, the Job Creation Fund—a pay-for-performance initiative helping companies expand in Minnesota—has awarded $19.3 million to 37 Minnesota companies. Another key incentive is the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership (MJSP), which funds training programs for individual businesses. Under this initiative, the MJSP pays up to $400,000 for educational institutions to develop and implement training curriculum for local companies—a model that McKinnon calls “highly effective.”

Since 2008, businesses in Louisiana have benefitted from Louisiana Economic Development’s FastStart workforce development initiative—a program creating customized employee recruiting, screening and training techniques at no cost to eligible companies. Governor Bobby Jindal calls FastStart instrumental in improving Louisiana’s business climate, adding that the nationally renowned program has helped the state become “a top-tier destination for domestic and foreign economic development projects.” Louisiana further incentivizes companies via the Angel Investor Tax Credit—which offers up to a 25.2 percent tax credit for individuals who invest in new, wealth-creating businesses—and the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption, a program providing full property tax abatement for up to 10 years on a manufacturer’s new investment and annual capitalized additions.

Among Utah’s various business incentives, two stand out from the pack, according to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development’s Michael Sullivan. The state’s Economic Development Tax Increment Finance (EDTIF) and companion Industrial Assistance Fund (IAF) are “generally most exciting to companies growing in Utah,” Sullivan says, with the former incentive granting businesses expanding in or relocating to Utah a post-performance, refundable tax credit of up to 30 percent over five to 10 years. The IAF similarly has specific capital investment requirements and disburses appropriated post-performance cash for endeavors such as job training and management relocation to Utah. Also advantageous to businesses, Sullivan says, is Utah’s flat, 5 percent personal and business tax, which the state has levied since 2007.

A Midwestern Showdown

Geographically, less than 200 miles separates them. But despite Indiana and Illinois’ close proximity, manufacturers come to the Midwestern states for varying reasons. Below, economic development experts compare the two states according to the following three criteria: tax structure, access to talent and transportation infrastructure.

Victor Smith, Indiana’s Secretary of Commerce, says his state offers one clear advantage over its neighbor: affordability. Indiana was recently named the least expensive state in which to do business, and the state’s reformed tax structure has also garnered praise. “Tax rates are on a downward trend here,” Smith says, with Indiana’s corporate tax rate sliding from 7 percent to 4.9 percent by 2022 and its personal tax rate declining to 3.2 percent in 2017. Compare this to Illinois’ corporate tax rate, he says, which is a “staggering” 7.75 percent.

Numbers don’t lie, David Hulseberg, CEO of Aurora, Illinois’ Seize the Future Development Foundation, concedes, but he says they often don’t tell the full story. “While it’s true that tax rates are slightly higher in Illinois, Indiana receives a much higher percentage of state funding from the federal government,” he says. For every dollar paid to the federal government, Illinoisans receive back $0.45, he reveals. Indianans, however, obtain a hefty $1.81. “This means that Illinois is the third-least-dependent state on federal funds,” he says, while Indiana ranks 29th.

Economic growth requires manpower, Hulseberg says—something Illinois certainly has. “We have almost twice the population of Indiana, with much higher levels of educational attainment,” he says. More than 31 percent of Illinoisans currently hold a bachelor’s degree or higher; in Indiana, that percentage is only 23 percent. Illinois is also home to three of the top 50 universities in the U.S., Hulseberg says, “which translates to a much larger, innovative, educated and diverse talent pool” than its Midwestern rival.

Smith isn’t convinced. Yes, Indiana is less populated than Illinois, he concedes, but what the state lacks in residents it compensates for in manufacturing talent. “Hoosiers are leaders in designing and building the products that power our world,” Smith says, “whether that’s a car, a jet engine or a medical device.” Since July 2009, Indiana has added 91,700 manufacturing jobs to its economy—a rate that trails only Michigan. Buoying Indiana-based manufacturers, Smith says, is their proximity to a supply chain that comprises 29.5 percent of the state’s GDP, the highest concentration in the nation.

Arguably the biggest boost to Indiana commerce is the presence of Louisville International Airport, which straddles the Indiana/Kentucky border and serves as the global headquarters for UPS. Manufacturers in Indiana also benefit from access to numerous Class I railroads, including CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railway, as well as a port infrastructure that ranks among the nation’s best. Current estimates place Indiana as shipping more than 70 million tonnes of sea freight a year—a volume that significantly impacts the state’s economy, economic development experts say. “By nearly any measure and any ranking,” Smith says, “Indiana shines as a state that works for business.”

Operating in Illinois also benefits businesses, says Michael Mertes, business development coordinator at the Illinois-based Village of Arlington Heights’ Department of Planning and Community Development, thanks to the state’s geographic centrality and strong transportation infrastructure. Take the city of Arlington Heights, for example. Not only is it situated less than 15 minutes from Chicago O’Hare International Airport—the 16th busiest cargo airport in the world—Arlington Heights has direct access to two interstate highways, as well as major freight railroads, Mertes notes. “This infrastructure gives manufacturers the opportunity to transport and receive products via the most efficient method for their business,” he says.