More than $700 million in cargo projects are under consideration at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC). When finalized, they’ll add to the airport’s already impressive cargo-handling chops: It’s the world’s fifth busiest airport by cargo volume, handling 2.7 million tons in 2018. More than 180 widebody operations take place daily; midway between Tokyo and New York, flights can reach nearly all the industrialized world in under 10 hours from Anchorage.FedEx and UPS have long had sorting hubs at ANC and are among the companies with proposed expansions in the works — a $57 million, 98,000-sq.-ft. (9,104-sq.-m.) domestic operations center in FedEx’s case and a $110 million, 1.35-million-plus-sq.-ft. (125,415-sq.-m.) land lease for UPS. The other proposed projects are a $200 million, 700,000-sq.-ft. (65,030-sq.-m.) warehouse for Alaska Cargo and Cold Storage and two $170 million warehouses and transfer facilities for 6A-XL Aviation Alaska.
“Tons of perishables and pharmaceuticals fly through our airport on a daily basis,” says Airport Manager Jim Szczesniak,” naming two of the countless time-sensitive, commodities trans-shipped at ANC. “We have relatively cheap land here for warehousing, compared to having a warehouse in Tokyo, in Taipei, in Seoul and in Shanghai. All those places are high-rent districts. We’re looking to store large, time-sensitive items here. That way, you don’t have to have multiple warehouses all over Asia. You can have one here in Anchorage and when something is needed, we can put it on a plane, and it’ll be there in nine hours.”
The airport city part comes next. Szczesniak says the bottom line is doing responsible development in areas that that are mutually beneficial to each other.
“We have UPS, DHL, and FedEx all right next to each other,” he explains. “Alaska Cargo and Cold Storage will be next to them. They’ll have the ability to use the UPS, FedEx and DHL networks to distribute, plus all the other carriers that we have here. We’ve identified some land directly across the street from those facilities where we’re looking to develop potentially an e-commerce area due to that proximity.”
ANC has begun planning work on an airport hotel to be located directly across from the terminal, says Szczesniak. “We’ve got three qualified bidders on that, so we’re hoping that that’s under way soon. We are actively pursuing the MRO and aircraft parts distribution market. We have an area on the south side of the airport that we’re looking to dedicate to that. We already have a FedEx MRO and an Alaska Airlines MRO, but we’re looking to bring in another MRO. About 2,600 jet engines fly through our airport every year going back and forth to get fixed. Well, why not just fix them here in Anchorage? It would save roughly seven days for a customer that’s getting their engine fixed, and you’re not doing the multiple mode shifts just to get that engine from where it’s coming from to where it’s getting fixed. You can serve the North American and Asian markets from this one location.”
The brand name of that location is AeroNexus — an airport-centered hub of more than passenger and cargo movements, which is the very essence of the airport city. Metros around the world have embarked on similar initiatives, many of which have been covered in these pages over the past 12 years.
Efficiency Is Job One
“What we’ve seen with other airports is that they do an unorganized planning effort, and things end up popping up all over the place,” says Szczesniak. “There’s no efficiency that can be gained. At our airport, we’re trying to put the like businesses in the same neighborhood so that they can achieve the efficiencies that an airport location can deliver. We’re also looking at using some of our surplus land to help our customers. We’re trying to develop a flower industry with some of that surplus land, because airplanes and flowers go together. Flowers are distributed by air because they’re extremely perishable. If we can grow them right here and take them right to the airplanes, you’re not going to be able to get them any fresher. And that’s unique to Alaska, because our growing season starts later,” Szczesniak points out.
“We’re doing the same thing with seafood,” he says. “The Alaska Cargo and Cold Storage facility would be better prepared to better distribute seafood out of here. We also have a freight forwarder, Pilot Freight Services, that installed a king crab refreshing tank here. In Asia, live king crab is very popular. So we bring the crab in from the Bering Sea to Anchorage, and it goes in the refreshing tank for a day in order for it to refresh, and then we can send it into Asia and feed the live crab demand there. We want to use our airport city concept to be able to make sure that we’re efficient. Our customers can literally fly away. If we don’t have an efficient operation, they can go to somewhere that does.”
An airpark at ANC will soon be master planned for redevelopment; it has rail infrastructure already for tourism trips to and from Denali. “We might be able to piggyback on that existing infrastructure — run an automated train between the terminal and the East Airpark, which would open that up for future development, such as an office building, hotel, remote parking,” says Szczesniak. “It opens up a lot of possibilities.”
Mark Arend has been editor in chief of Site Selection magazine since 2001. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.