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From a logistics perspective, one of the biggest lessons learned (so far) in the COVID-19 pandemic is that long supply chains stretching across the globe can spell trouble. Shutdowns in one manufacturing center in Asia—or the United States, for that matter—can imperil companies down the chain. 

“The golden rule of the supply chain in a post-COVID-19 world is to avoid sourcing everything from one location or one company and to maintain alternative sources of supply,” said Brian Leonard and Mark Volkman, JLL’s managing director and executive vice president, respectively, in a July 2020 article in Heartland Real Estate Business magazine.

Morris Cohen, a professor of Manufacturing and Logistics at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, goes even further.

“The question of global sourcing will continue to be critical,” Cohen said in a March 31, 2020 Bloomberg News story. “I believe that there will be a shift toward more regional and local solutions, with less dependence on single sources in other countries, as companies determine that the costs and risks of offshoring are even more significant than what they perceived them to be in the past.”

Cities with inland ports are uniquely situated to localize manufacturing and make supply chains more agile and transparent. Here are 20 we looked at that can do supply chain wonders.  

St. Louis, MO

From a supply chain perspective, St. Louis is fairly close to ideal. The region, which stretches along 15 miles of the Mississippi River, includes four ports, six Class I railroad carriers, four interstate highways and two international cargo airports. It also offers more grain handling capacity than anywhere else on the Mississippi, which is why the region is known as the “Ag Coast of America,” according to Inbound Logistics. St. Louis is also very attractive to manufacturers, brought by in low tax rates and close proximity to a highly skilled workforce, much of which has been trained in Supply Chain Management at local colleges.

Cincinnati, OH

In their Heartland Real Estate Business magazine piece, Leonard and Volkman point to the fact that Cincinnati is “within a 10-hour truck drive of 54 percent of the U.S. population.” This is absolutely critical for companies trying to make their supply chain(s) as nimble as possible. Couple it with Cincinnati’s three intermodal terminals, quarter-million feet of industrial space, another 8 million square feet under construction and close proximity to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, and you have a desirable location from a supply chain perspective.

Pittsburgh, PA

Business leaders in Pittsburgh are taking the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the supply chain very serious. So much so that in July 2020, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that a coalition of companies, labor organizations and business associations called Pittsburgh Works Together—which formed as the pandemic lockdowns began—unveiled a new plan to shorten the region’s supply chain. Their proposals included that the region should “fully develop its energy sector, especially around natural gas; encourage trade school routes for high school graduates who don’t go to college; rebuild local infrastructure; and reduce Pennsylvania’s corporate tax burden,” according to the Post-Gazette

Kansas City, MO

Because four major interstate highways intersect in Kansas City, trucks leaving the region can reach virtually the entire continental U.S. within 48 hours. This is a major advantage for companies located there, and the city’s economic officials are doing what they can to make their supply chains more agile. “Technology is something we need to learn how to embrace and use to solve problems,” said Chris Gutierrez, president of KCSmartPort at its industry briefing in April 2020, according to the Kansas City Economic Development Corporation. “In Kansas City, we are proud to carry that innovative thinking into discussions around making our regional supply chain companies more successful in today’s global marketplace.”

Memphis, TN

One of just four cities in the U.S. that’s served by five Class I railroads, Memphis is uniquely suited for all supply chain needs. According to a September 2019 Supply Chain Dive post, the city is also served by Memphis International Airport (the largest air cargo airport in the Western Hemisphere), three major highways and a port that moved about 11 million short tons of goods in 2017. It’s no wonder that Udo Lange of FedEx Logistics told Supply Chain Dive that Memphis “is one of the great logistics hubs in the world.”

Chicago, IL

Chicago is a global supply chain powerhouse. “On the national scale, the region is a transportation node in a number of North American supply chains,” states the 2015 Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) report “Chicago Region Supply Chain Trends and Trading Partners.” “On a regional scale, transportation infrastructure supports the region’s manufacturing cluster, which benefits from strong connections to international markets.” All of which is made possible by Chicago’s connections to two major waterways, six Class I railroads, seven interstate highways and the nation’s fourth busiest cargo airport.

Houston, TX

As one of the top energy producers in the world, Houston is a part of many global supply chains. While steel imports at Port Houston are down considerably from this time last year, according to a June 2020 webinar on global supply chains hosted by the Greater Houston Partnership, the reason is due more to Section 232 tariffs and lower oil prices than the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall cargo remains steady, while aggregates and grains are up considerably, and the port itself is investing $2 billion in terminal and channel improvements, according to the Greater Houston Partnership. Houston is also served by three Class I railroads, three interstate highways and a major international airport.

Charlotte, NC

The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC) says Charlotte “sits at the heart of the Southeast’s manufacturing and distribution sites.” The city connects to four interstate highways (two of which tie into the port). There are also two intermodal facilities in the city and Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the seventh busiest international airport in the world. According to a 2019 analysis of Charlotte’s logistics by the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, the region sits within 12 hours of slightly more than half of the U.S. population. 

Stockton, CA

A transportation hub since the mid 19th century, Stockton is located in California’s Central Valley. Though the city is best known for its 35-foot-deep inland port, it also boasts extensive rail connections. According to a December 2019 Business View Magazine article, nine of the city’s 13 industrial parks have rail access. In addition, all of its industrial parks are freeway close, and are within five to 15 minutes of both the port and Stockton Metropolitan Airport, which can accommodate all wide body aircraft currently in service.

Cleveland, OH

Port of Cleveland officials say their public and private harbors handle about 13 million tons of cargo every year. Cleveland processes a lot of heavy machinery, containers, iron ore, limestone and steel, among other cargoes, which isn’t surprising given that it’s the first major port of call on the Great Lakes for ships traveling the St. Lawrence Seaway. The Cleveland Bulk Terminal can handle 5,200 tons of iron ore per hour and is connected to one of the two Class I railroads that serve the port. Given that the port is just an eight-hour drive from half the U.S. population, it’s no wonder Cleveland is big on a lot of supply chains.

Duluth, MN

The Duluth Seaway Port Authority considers the Port of Duluth-Superior to be the “bulk cargo capital” of the Great Lakes, which isn’t surprising since it handles 35 million short tons of bulk cargo every year. “Maritime’s inherent efficiencies are critical to the success of supply chain managers worldwide,” states the port authority. “Shared by two cities and two states, the Port of Duluth-Superior has been the backbone of this region’s economy for well over a century.” Couple this with the city’s immediate access to I-35 and four Class I railroads, and it’s clear why this inland port city is so valuable from a supply chain perspective. 

Detroit, MI

Detroit is the busiest northern border crossing into Canada, according to that city’s Chamber of Commerce. It’s also the second largest customs port of entry into the U.S. in terms of the value of goods. The city is served by four Class I railroads, three intermodal terminals and the Port of Detroit, which handles 17 million tons of cargo every year. Much of that is raw materials, according to port officials: high grade steel, coal, iron ore, cement, aggregate and other building materials. In fact, the Port of Detroit is the third largest port in the U.S. in terms of handling steel. 

Louisville, KY

Louisville actually has two inland ports, both of which are vital supply chain components. There is, of course, the Port of Louisville on the Ohio River, which handles a variety of bulk cargos, including coal, grain and potash, and is served by three major eastern railroads. But there’s also the massive UPS Worldport, an air hub built in the early 2000s that today moves a staggering quantity of packages—many of them within a day. Three hundred flights carrying 2 million packages move in and out of the Worldport, which is as large as 90 football fields, every day. Eventually, Worldport officials say the center will be able to process as many as half a million packages per hour.

Vicksburg, MS

The only rail crossing of the Mississippi River in the state of Mississippi is at the Port of Vicksburg. The port currently handles 14 million tons of freight each year, but Vicksburg officials are looking at expanding it in the near future. In July 2020, the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership released a report outlining the supply chain growth advantages of such an expansion. “The top six market opportunities identified in the report include scrap iron imports from Mexico, containerized soybean exports, wood-chip exports in containers, resin exports, steel (mini) mill attraction and the imports of spruce logs,” the Vicksburg Post reported.

Green Bay, WI

Logistics and supply chain management jobs have been centering in Green Bay for many years now. Today, the region has the 18th highest concentration of transportation logistics jobs in the nation, according to an August 2019 Go Press Times article. The Port of Green Bay ties into enough major interstates to allow trucks to make overnight deliveries to anywhere within a 400-mile radius, according to the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. “The Port of Green Bay is the westernmost port of Lake Michigan,” port officials say. “The Port of Green Bay offers the shortest, most direct route for shipments between the Midwest and the world.”

Tulsa, OK

The Tulsa Port of Catoosa is one of the largest (and most inland) ports in the nation. It’s always ice-free and hosts more than 60 companies, according to the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce. The port allows Oklahoma industries to take advantage of navigable waterways that connect Minneapolis, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Sioux City, Brownsville and the Florida coast. Tulsa is also served by two Class I railroads, three interstate highways and Tulsa International Airport, which is just 10 minutes from the port. Six air cargo carriers and the U.S. Postal Service all maintain operations at Tulsa International. 

Shreveport, LA

The Port of Caddo-Bossier, which is just four miles south of the Shreveport city limits, ties into two Class I railroads, two interstate highways and two U.S. highways. The port also provides access to the Red River, Mississippi River, Gulf Intercoastal Waterway and the Gulf of Mexico. The port authority considers it one of the fastest growing ports in the nation, and it currently handles liquid petroleum, aggregate, coiled steel, plate steel, fertilizer, over dimensional cargo, scrap steel, steel beams, coal, tire chips and frac sand. 

Philadelphia, PA

Because of its location in the heavily populated coastal Northeast, Philadelphia has nearly unmatched strategic value. In fact, because of the interstate highways and two Class I railroads that serve the Port of Philadelphia, shippers can move products to 70 percent of the nation’s population within 72 hours. In November 2016, when state officials announced a $300 Port Development Plan that would double container volume processing, Philadelphia Regional Port Authority Chairperson Jerry Sweeney said, “This new service validates what we have known for a long time. Philadelphia is a more efficient supply chain option for major beneficial cargo owners.”

Milwaukee, WI

Situated on Lake Michigan, 467-acre Port Milwaukee provides easy access to the St. Lawrence Seaway. According to Transportation & Logistics International, it’s also the only “Lake Michigan port beyond Chicago approved to serve the Mississippi River inland waterway system, which provides direct river barge access to the Illinois River that connects other U.S. ports on the Gulf of Mexico.” The port also connects to I-94/795, ties into two Class I railroads and processes around 2.5 million tons of cargo per year—much of grains, cement and limestone.

Toledo, OH

The supply chain advantages in Northwest Ohio almost defy belief. The region boasts a 130,000-strong workforce, according to Toledo’s Regional Growth Partnership. The city and its port are just a single day’s drive to 60 percent of the U.S. market. The three major interstates and four railways that service Toledo provide a huge advantage for shippers. And in terms of natural disasters, Toledo is a relatively low-risk area, and the whole region boasts an affordable cost of living. 



The time has come once again for our team to identify which cities are leading the way in providing businesses the tools needed to operate successfully and navigate economic disruptions. Cities listed in this year’s cover story represent the level of resilience that keeps Americans moving forward in the hardest of times.

However, in 2020, we decided to do things a little differently. After all, 2020 was a different year for everyone, as it will more than likely go down in history as the “year of COVID.” Thus, for businesses in the U.S. and around the world, we looked at the data for cities leading the way in “soft infrastructure” rather than primarily focusing on the leaders in “hard infrastructure.” 

Resources from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and more supported the development of this list. Our goal is to identify the things that help support businesses beyond rail, port and transportation options. According to the economic development leaders we spoke with, the elements of soft infrastructure are often overlooked. 

“Not all cities have the same caliber of export and trade support systems,” explains Linda DiMario, an economic development consultant. “If there is not trade ecosystem in place to help build capacity and nurture the transition of export ideas to the act of exporting, that gets in the way for companies. Those companies do not always know where to go for assistance.”

DiMario continues, “Very often, the attention goes to what I like to refer to as ‘hard infrastructure’ rather than understanding exports and trade capacity from a more holistic perspective. Airports, port access, etc. are the more obvious components of hard infrastructure, and although they are important, they’re not the only components. There is an ecosystem that exists that supports companies and their ability to explore markets and provides the ‘soft infrastructure’ to help develop export readiness. Those are crucial elements in any city and deserve recognition.”

On that note, here are the cities that made our list.

Best Cities for Exports by Metropolitan Area

Source: Foreign Trade Report

The report highlights leading areas based on “millions of U.S. dollars, not seasonally adjusted” and compares the 2019 final numbers to 2018’s numbers, preceding each yearly period with “Annual.” This report was published on June 16, 2020.

Northeast: New York-Newark-Jersey City, (NY-NJ-PA)

Out of a total of 10 metropolitan areas in the Northeast, the New-York-Newark-Jersey City metro region led by a longshot with just shy of $87 million for Annual 2019. Each quarter recorded by the metro region also led by more than double compared to competing metros in the Northeast. The overall numbers were slightly lower compared to the Annual 2018 breakdown but contributed to a total of 185,492,000 for the region in ’19. 

Midwest: Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI

It was not a surprise to see The Windy City leading the way for the Midwest for top export dollars in Annual 2019. The Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metro region represented a total of $42,493,000 in exports, with the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn area right behind it. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin beat Detroit-Warren-Dearborn by $1,056,000 for the Annual 2019 final numbers. 

South: Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX

As we saw in last year’s Best Cities feature, Houston ranked among the top, representing robust numbers for the South with a whopping $128,032,000 in total exports for the Annual 2019 report. Overall, the southern region recorded $367,003,000 in ’19. This confirms the South as the top dog for highest number of exports in dollars throughout the nation. 

West: Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

Heading west, exports were nothing short of abundant; however, the metro regions tallied in fairly close with Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA, coming in first at $61,859,000 and Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA, coming in second at $41,334,000 for Annual 2019. The West represents the second-highest in export dollars for the year. 

Best Cities for Fastest-Growing Large Cities


When it is time for businesses to expand or relocate, location is critical. For this list, we looked at the fastest-growing large cities over the past decade detailed by the U.S. Census report revised on May 21, 2020. According to this report, the cities researched had a population of at least 50,000 as of April 1, 2010. This is the list of the top 10 fastest-growing cities between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2019, in order. Not surprisingly, the South and West lead the way in this category as well. Be warned: Texas dominates once again. 

Frisco, TX

Coming in at No. 1 on the list, Frisco was reported to have a 71.1 percent increase in population, with a total of 200,490 people. Frisco is one of six Texas cities listed among the top 10 nationally for population growth. 

Buckeye, AZ

Buckeye finished No. 2 by reporting a total population of 79,620 people at the end of 2019, increasing by 56.6 percent in a decade. Buckeye, AZ, is one of four Western states to make it on the list and is the only Arizona city represented in this report. 

New Braunfels, TX

Just behind Buckeye is the second Texas city represented for the fastest-growing large cities report. New Braunfels experienced a 56.4 percent increase, with a total population of 90,209 by the end of 2019. For those of you who are not familiar, New Braunfels is home to arguably one of the best water parks and resorts in Texas. Schlitterbahn, anyone? 

McKinney, TX

Just tapping right above the 50 percent mark is the third Texas city on the list. Located in the northeastern region of North Texas, McKinney was reported with a total population of 199,177 in 2019 and experienced a 51.9 percent increase over the past decade. It goes without saying that North Texas is a hot region for growth. 

South Jordan, UT

Heading west, the past decade of growth reported in South Jordan put the Utah city in fifth place on the list. Located just a hop, skip, and a ski jump south of Salt Lake City, South Jordan recorded an impressive 51.8 percent population growth in the past decade. Final numbers for 2019 equaled 76,598 people. 

Meridian, ID

Just above Utah, Idaho made its place on the list with a 48.3 percent increase reported for Meridian. The city finished 2019 with a robust 114,161 total population. This city represents the fourth highest out of the 10 on the list for the highest population total in 2019. 

Cedar Park, TX

Ah, Texas; we meet once again. Cedar Park made its way on the list as No. 7 with a 44.2 percent increase over the past decade and a total of 79,462 population. Neighboring cities include Leander, Round Rock and an interesting place known as Nameless with a reputation for being a “ghost town,” according to Texas Escapes Magazine.

Fort Myers, FL

Going even farther south, Fort Myers makes the eighth place on the list with a 39.8 percent increase over a decade, growing its total population to 87,103 for 2019. Fort Myers represents Florida on the top 10 list for significant growth in population during the period listed.

Conroe, TX

Just when you thought you had read all the Texas cities that made the list, one more pops up. Conroe comes in at No. 9 with a total population of 91,079 and an increase of 39.3 percent. Way to represent, Texas!

Irvine, CA

Coming in at the highest total 2019 population for the fastest-growing large cities on the list, Irvine finished 2019 with an impressive 287,401 population, which represents a 35.5 percent increase over the past decade. Irvine is the only California city to crack the top 10, which speaks volumes to the city’s infrastructure, quality of life and business opportunity. 

Best Cities for Federal Banking

Source: Office of the Comptroller of the Currency report

With any successful business comes the added layer of financial management. And when it comes to protecting your profits, you must choose your banks wisely. In the list below, we present cities offering trusted resources for banking as identified by the Office of the Comptroller Currency report. These cities offer the most options for federal banking, from cross-border banking to investor relations. 

New York, NY 

The city that never sleeps tops the list for the most federal banks. A robust 32 total federal banks are found in the Big Apple, giving your business more than enough options from which to choose. A few of the big-name banks found here include Arab Banking Corp., Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., Bank of China, Gulf International Bank and many more. 

San Francisco, CA

Although San Francisco (or any other city for that matter) did not come close to offering more than a handful of federal banks compared with the Big Apple, three of the federal banks found here include CMB Wing Lung Bank Ltd., Bank of Communications Co., Ltd., and UBS. If you’re looking for sustainable finance and investment options, this is a great place to start. 

Closely behind San Francisco are: Miami, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Chicago, with each having at least two federal banking options and competitive financing for domestic and international businesses. 

Best Cities for Civilian Labor Force 

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics report

We like to save the best for last. Arguably one of the most important elements in any business is its representing workforce. Cities that made this list showcase skills and growth that not only support efforts in economic development but prepares the next generation of those who will continue to grow the economy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics report identified metropolitan areas offering robust labor pools. These numbers reflect cities with at least 500,000 civilian workers as of September 2019.


Birmingham-Hoover: 551,568


Tucson: 503,048

Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale: 2,524,737


Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim: 6,781,917

Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario: 2,074,832

Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade: 1,104,416

San Diego-Carlsbad: 1,593,792

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward: 2,603,490

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara: 1,088,233


Denver-Aurora-Lakewood: 1,694,499


Hartford-East Hartford-West Hartford: 630,118

District of Columbia 

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria: 3,475,733


Jacksonville: 797,492

Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-West Palm Beach: 3,176,775

Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford: 1,381,556

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater: 1,577,352


Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell: 3,102,466


Chicago-Naperville-Elgin: 4,836,999


Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson: 1,071,170


Louisville-Jefferson County: 676,110


New Orleans-Metairie: 594,425


Baltimore-Columbia-Towson: 1,521,785


Boston-Cambridge-Nashua: 2,814,506


Detroit-Warren-Dearborn: 2,177,102

Grand Rapids-Wyoming: 574,566


Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington: 2,033,164


Kansas City: 1,135,510

St. Louis: 1,481,679


Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise: 1,138,060

New York

Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls: 541,098

New York City-Newark-Jersey City: 9,920,695

Rochester: 521,893

North Carolina

Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia: 1,375,200

Raleigh: 735,976


Cincinnati: 1,132,137

Columbus: 1,101,267

Cleveland-Elyria: 1,045,516


Oklahoma City: 688,813


Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro: 1,325,943


Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington: 3,133,899

Pittsburgh: 1,214,109

Rhode Island

Providence-Warwick: 691,449


Memphis: 644,028

Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin: 1,095,969


Austin-Round Rock: 1,244,523

Dallas-Ft. Worth-Arlington: 4,003,204

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land: 3,440,488

San Antonio-New Braunfels: 1,211,007


Salt Lake City: 671,371


Richmond: 688,763

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News: 861,205


Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue: 2,187,696


Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis: 816,430