GPA’s New Strategy to Expand Target Market
In the annual Savannah State of the Port address, Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch detailed a new strategic rail initiative, GPA’s Mid-American Arc, and welcomed Floor & Decor’s announcement of Phase 1 of a 1.4 million square-foot distribution center complex.
GPA’s Mid-American Arc will focus on the growth of intermodal rail, extending the Port of Savannah’s reach to capture new markets across the Southeast and Midwestern U.S.
“This enhancement of our rail capacity is a game-changer in the market to serve cities ranging in an arc from Atlanta to Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago and the Ohio Valley,” said Lynch. “Additional track will allow us to build unit trains, 10,000 feet long, completely on terminal, while reducing rail crossings and impact on the local community.”
Included in the plan is a $128 million project that will link Garden City Terminal’s two rail yards, improve efficiency and grow the terminal’s rail lift capacity to approximately one-million containers each year. The project is funded in part by a $44 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Also at the State of the Port, Lynch announced that flooring retailer Floor & Decor will open a 1.4 million square-foot distribution center in the Savannah market. The build-to-suit distribution facility will open by 2018 and be located on 90 acres about 10 miles from the Port of Savannah. Construction is slated to begin in November 2016. The new center will add and retain 115 jobs. A second phase will add another 1.1 million square feet, for a total of 2.5 million square feet.
“This is a tremendous vote of confidence in the Georgia Ports Authority and the future of the fast-growing market of the U.S. Southeast,” said GPA Board Chairman Jimmy Allgood. “It comes on the heels of a year in which millions of square feet of industrial and warehouse space were opened or announced across Georgia, accounting for more than 3,800 port-related jobs, and half a billion dollars in investment.”
“We looked at other East Coast opportunities, but the combination of the Georgia Port Authority, the Savannah Economic Development Authority, and the local logistics and distribution services could not be better for Floor & Decor than here in Savannah,” said Brian Robbins, Floor & Decor’s executive vice president for supply chain. “It’s just a great place to do business, especially when you look at the future investment being put into Savannah’s port and distribution business.”
Lynch noted the market is still calling for additional construction, citing a vacancy rate of just one percent for sites greater than 100,000 square feet. “Savannah is the number two growth market in the nation when it comes to absorption as a percentage of building inventory,” said Lynch. “Over the past 15 years, our cargo expansion has outpaced all other major U.S. container ports. The public and private investments we are making now will ensure Savannah remains at the forefront of global commerce.”
In his first address as executive director, Lynch also reported on the authority’s performance during fiscal year 2016, which ended in June. The GPA moved 31 million tons of cargo and 3.6 million twenty-foot equivalent container units in Fiscal Year 2016. It is the second straight year that TEU volumes topped 3.6 million. Despite a decrease of 1.3 percent in containers for FY16, combined annual TEU growth for FY15-16 reached 15.4 percent.