Piedmont Triad aims to move up the charts

Piedmont Triad aims to
move up the charts

The 12-county region of North Carolina known as the Piedmont Triad is anchored by Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem. Ranked 132nd nationally on Logistics Today’s proprietary Site Selector, the three cities comprising a single standard metropolitan statistical area collectively come in 38th in the Southeast Regional ranking. There’s a good chance, though, that the Piedmont Triad will soon be moving up the charts.

In most of the critical areas of measurement used in the Site Selector, activity in the Piedmont Triad is building. Topping the list is a decision by FedEx to locate an Express hub at Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA).

The Greensboro hub will be FedEx’s fifth national air cargo hub, and will handle packages that are originated and delivered on the East Coast beginning in 2008. According to Don Kirkman, CEO of the Piedmont Triad Partnership, airport improvements are expected to amount to a $500 million investment. FedEx anticipates hiring 1,500 employees. Nearly 20,000 new jobs will be created in 12 counties (including South Carolina and Virginia) over a 16-year period. This will generate $9.3 billion in wages and salaries that will contribute $703 million in new state taxes over the same period and $236 million local taxes.

That isn’t the end of the impact of this single development. Kirkman says FedEx typically deals with between 20 and 30 customers whose logistics needs lead them to locate around the Express hub. These are usually divided about equally between medical technologies, electronics and “big-box” distributors.

Whether or not FedEx uses its hub as a major connection to Europe, the second parallel 10,000-foot runway PTIA is building to accommodate FedEx cargo traffic will be capable of handling any aircraft currently flying.

An interstate highway loop is already under construction in the vicinity of the airport. The Greensboro loop, I-840, will connect with a new interstate — I-73 — that will serve the area.

Initially authorized by the Intermodal Surface Transportation and Efficiency Act (ISTEA) in 1991, the I-73/I-74 Corridor extends through Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The 135-mile stretch of I-73 running through North Carolina is 42% complete. The longer I-74 corridor (270 miles) is 25% complete.

In all, a total of five interstates serve the Piedmont Triad. The area is within a single day by truck of most major metro areas on the East Coast, says Kirkman.

In addition to prospects for international connections through the expanded Piedmont Triad International Airport, highway and rail connections link it to East Coast ports. An inland terminal operation, Piedmont Triad Inland Terminal, is developing near the airport and is handling container traffic to and from the Port of Wilmington.

A foreign trade zone that covers thousands of acres at the Greensboro airport includes six other sites in the region. Coupled with the expanded runways and a growing number of warehouse distribution projects in the airport sub market, the area has attracted more interest from globally minded shippers. A large Chinese-owned furniture manufacturing company recently opened a 300,000 square foot distribution center in High Point, says Kirkman. “So, even if the manufacturing is going offshore, a lot of the offshore manufacturers are still looking at our area for distribution,” he adds.

The Triad area is building in six of the 10 critical areas measured by the
Site Selector
: air cargo, waterborne commerce, rail, interstate highways, road conditions and road infrastructure. If road congestion and taxes and fees don’t rear their ugly heads and take a bite out of future rankings, the Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem area should begin a steady rise as a southeastern regional logistics center.

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March, 2004

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