The 2003 Global
entral to any region's success as an economic center is its transportation and logistics infrastructure. This used to mean having rail, highway, air and sea access even two or three of these could support key industries. But some areas are seeking to distance themselves from competitive locations and are re-evaluating the definition of transportation infrastructure.
In the case of airports, an increasing number of regions are developing not just new terminals and runways, but integrated, multimodal transportation hubs designed to deliver passenger and cargo services as well as distribution and logistics solutions to industries for decades to come.
AIR"Airports are evolving from pure aviation facilities to multimodal, commercial enterprises, and there is an inherent value in being close to them," says Chad Galayda, vice president, strategic consulting, at Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle. "Office users, high-tech companies, professional services firms, warehouse and distribution firms are clustering around airports because of that." Galayda worked on two airport-expansion strategic planning efforts in recent years involving Lambert-St. Louis International and Pittsburgh International Airports.
Multimodal Demand Is ElusiveAlso familiar with these same facilities is William Randell (Randy) Forister, who is directing development of land surrounding Pittsburgh International as the Allegheny County Airport Authority's senior director of development. Prior to moving to Pittsburgh, Forister headed a similar effort at St. Louis International.
At press time, reports Forister, "We have completed our site capacity analysis and have identified a 100-acre [40-hectare] site that will be developed as a warehouse park. We anticipate buildings ranging from 200,000 to 400,000 square feet [18,580 to 37,160 sq. m.]." Forister expects to break ground on the park in the spring of 2004.
The Pittsburgh airport's success as an economic development generator for the southwestern Pennsylvania region in the future may well depend on the fruits of Forister's efforts today. PIT is better known, for now, as a passenger hub for US Airways one of two in Pennsylvania. If the carrier were to decide to close its hub operations at Pittsburgh, the effect on the local economy would be substantial. Every effort, therefore, is being made to transform the relatively hilly terrain surrounding the airport into a commercial hub not dependent on passengers alone for economic viability. And infrastructure is key.
"Transportation systems are the backbone of commerce," notes Forister. "Obviously, sites at an airport with easy access to air-freight facilities and excellent access to the interstate highway system will have competitive advantages over other sites in the region. As we prioritize these sites and bring development sites online, we feel they will compete very favorably and provide clients with a unique opportunity close to the airport and with excellent access to the interstate."
Investing in multimodal facilities is no small matter, particularly in the case of existing airports where substantial development would be necessary to transform the field into a multimodal logistics hub. And there is a knowledgeable camp that is more than skeptical of the benefits of the multimodal evolution. At the very least, it's not for all airports, no matter how attractive the project might look on paper, they argue. More to the point, the skeptics question whether there is enough demand for the type of freight forwarding that a multimodal airport would deliver.
"According to an informal survey of [potential users] we did in 1996, we determined that on a global basis, perhaps 50,000 tons of freight moved multimodally between sea and air," says Dan Muscatello, managing consultant at John F. Brown Co., a Cincinnati-based airport consulting firm. The survey he refers to was conducted when Muscatello worked at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. "You can't justify the infrastructure for that. Every time you change modes, you're adding cost to the shipping. There's no market for it, in my opinion."
Convergence in Cajun CountryFrom an investment perspective, greenfield projects are another story. Sites can be chosen that already have the necessary infrastructure, such as ocean access, highways and an existing rail network, so the airport is all that's missing.
A case in point is the Louisiana Transportation Center (LTC), a multimodal facility now in the planning stage that will incorporate an international airport, a rail yard, surface transportation network and docking facilities on the Mississippi River. Following analysis of over 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) using geographic information system (GIS) technology, a 25,000-acre (10,000-hectare) site about 20 miles (32 km.) south of Baton Rouge was pinpointed. Key figures in the site-selection process were the Louisiana Airport Authority (LAA) and GIS and airport experts from URS Corp., San Francisco, a transportation systems and infrastructure planning and design company.
"The selection process took eight months, and we are very pleased with the location, because it's in an area that will have the least impact on wetlands and people," says Glenda Jeansonne, LAA's executive director. LAA is in the process of lining up private investors to back the project.
"Our airports in Louisiana are landlocked, because most of them are 40 and 50 years old they cannot expand due to wetlands surrounding them, particularly New Orleans," Jeansonne points out. Longer runways than those at New Orleans Airport will be needed to accommodate the aviation industry of the future.
Mainline railroads, Interstates I-10 and I-55 and the Mississippi River all converge near the site of the future airport project. Which should be of interest to Louisiana companies that are trucking their products to other ports for shipment to distant markets. Time-to-market and the cost of getting goods there should tilt clearly in their favor. "We want companies here to fly their goods out of our own airport, so they can save costs," says Jeansonne.
But this project has even greater potential in its ability to attract the attention of manufacturers who have skipped Louisiana in previous site searches. The automotive industry, for one, is a target sector that has put projects in several other southern states in recent years, and the Bayou State wants some of the action. The same goes for aerospace.
"The Boeing [7E7 manufacturing] facility would have been perfect for the LTC, because we have all four modes of transportation and they could fly the finished product out on the 12,000-ft. [3,660-m.] runway," notes Jeansonne.
Adds Win Beyea, LTCs' project manager and vice president of airport planning at URS Corp., "Had this project stayed on track in the 1990s and we had turned dirt by 2000 and had something open by now, we would be a candidate for that kind of facility." Plans for the LTC first got under way in 1992. "Hopefully, there will be other opportunities like that in the future that we can take advantage of," says Beyea, who also works with airport planners in the Los Angeles area.
West Coast Capacity Moving InlandBeyea cites development of an international air cargo center at Ontario International Airport, where UPS has a major presence, as an example of airport infrastructure keeping pace with demand in the Golden State. "They have the cargo infrastructure right there, but the Inland Empire is a growing part of the Los Angeles region, and they are taking advantage of what they have," he points out. "There is a tremendous amount of warehousing around Ontario, and they also are getting big into e-commerce there," he adds, which tends to gravitate to locations with extra shipping capacity.
On another level, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) simply won't be able to handle the growth in cargo volume, and the other area airports mainly Long Beach and John Wayne Orange County are not easily expanded to absorb the overflow. Through 2025, passenger volume will double, and cargo handling will triple, according to the Southern California Association of Governments' 2001 Regional Transportation Plan.
"It is a foregone conclusion that if you don't have the capacity to handle the volume, then you will forego the economic opportunity associated with that growth," says Richard Janisse, deputy executive director, business development, at Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), which operates the four main airports in the region. "We wanted to create some capacity at airports other than LAX to handle this cargo demand," says Janisse.
LAWA identified 105 acres (42.5 hectares) of land at Ontario Airport and designated it for cargo. Then, rather than develop individual parcels itself, the agency outsourced development of the entire 105 acres to Aeroterm US, a developer of industrial facilities for air industry and related tenants, with offices in Annapolis, Md., Houston and Montréal. The company will develop 1 million sq. ft. (92,900 sq. m.) of modern cargo transfer point facilities, supporting office space, parking ramps and security systems.
Also helping to meet the increasing demand for cargo capacity in the greater Los Angeles area is the former George Air Force Base in Victorville. Now called the Southern California Logistics Airport (SCLA), the facility occupies 5,000 acres (2,025 hectares) 50 miles (80 km.) northeast of Los Angeles. When built out, the airport will be able to handle 4 million tons of cargo, which is nearly half the capacity forecast for the next 20 years. SCLA features a 1,500-acre (607-hectare) air cargo and aircraft maintenance complex and a 700-acre (283-hectare) intermodal transfer center with access to Burlington Northern-Santa Fe and Union Pacific rail lines.
Elsewhere in California, the San Francisco Airport Commission has begun negotiations with Airis Holdings LLC, Houston, to modernize and improve the West Field Cargo Area at San Francisco International Airport. Airis has developed more than 2.3 million square feet (213,700 sq. m.) of new cargo facilities at U.S. gateway airports in New York; Newark, N.J.; Miami, Fla.; and Louisville, Ky. Its project finance model takes advantage of certain tax regulations that allow tax-exempt monies to be used to finance long-term air cargo assets.
Airis would develop a single cargo facility on a 26-acre (10.5-hectare) tract of land to replace three facilities there now. The new facility would be unique to the U.S. air cargo market in that it would be a two-story building modeled on such Asian cargo facilities as those in Singapore, Inchon, S. Korea, and elsewhere.
"The airport's goal is to maximize profits for the airport and to create opportunity for new carrier and cargo output into San Francisco by virtue of providing facilities that historically have not been there," says Brian Cochran, Airis's CEO. To date, most of the Bay Area cargo has been handled at nearby Oakland International Airport. "We are proposing a pretty aggressive program that would essentially double the size of the existing cargo capacity at San Francisco by adding roughly 475,000 square feet [44,000 sq. m.] of cargo space and three 747 wide-body aircraft parking positions." Airis's investment would be about $200 million.
Cochran says he anticipates increased congestion at the gateway city airports Airis currently serves. Which raises the question of whether a case can be made for investing in new cargo airports, multimodal or not. Conversion of well-situated, former Air Force facilities, as at Victorville, is an attractive option to municipalities dependent on public funds. "The military airports may succeed over the long term," says Cochran. "But over the short term, the airlines, the forwarders and the express carriers want to be in the heart of things because of increasing synergies between them. Cargo airports are probably warranted, but not in the immediate future."
But private investment as is the case with the Louisiana Transportation Center and Ross Perot's Alliance facility in Fort Worth, Texas still takes place.
Clear Air Over Northern EuropeIn Europe, Copenhagen Airport managers are looking at ways to enhance the facility's freight-handling capacity with intermodal features. Highways and access to the sea are already in place, and a rail line runs into the Copenhagen Airport Business Park.
"Here in Europe, roads are getting congested, there are problems with tunnel transfers under the Alps, and road restrictions are in place concerning trucking, for example," says Robert S. Arendal, president of Ra Associates, a Luxembourg-based aviation and air cargo consultancy. "Rail would be ideal solution, provided one can solve some of the handling issues, such as frequency of service from the airport. In the long term, intermodal airports will be increasingly attractive to the air freight carriers," particularly the all-cargo carriers.
Arendal, a founder of Cargolux Airlines, also is Chairman of the Board of Kallax Cargo AB, which operates Kallax Cargo Airport in Lulea, Sweden, not far from the Arctic Circle. The Board is working to expand the facility into a key distribution center for northern Europe, primarily as a center for shipping such perishables as salmon to global markets. Flying the salmon directly from Lulea, on the Gulf of Bothnia, to the Far East, for example, would reduce transport time significantly.
©2003 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. SiteNet data is from many sources and not warranted to be accurate or current.