A coalition of businesses, educational institutions, and economic development agencies in North Carolina's Piedmont Triad region has an ambitious goal: to make the area (which includes the cities of Greensboro, High Point, and Winston-Salem) the biggest global logistics hub on the U.S. East Coast.
Work has already begun on making the vision of the "Piedmont Triad Aerotropolis" a reality. The concept envisions a city in which the layout, infrastructure, and economy are centered on a major airport—in this case, Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro. Situated midway between New York and Florida, it's surrounded by a tangle of state and interstate highways, placing the airport within a two-day truck journey of 70 percent of the U.S. population and within a five-hour drive of three major seaports.
The presence of more than two dozen distribution centers for companies like Kmart, Liberty Hardware, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Dell testifies to the area's appeal as a logistics hub. Some 40 third-party logistics service companies, including locally headquartered M33 Integrated and New Breed, serve the DCs and manufacturing plants nearby. Both truckload and LTL services abound, led by Thomasville, N.C.-based Old Dominion Freight Line, one of the nation's largest transportation companies. CSX and Norfolk Southern provide intermodal and bulk rail service. And last month, FedEx Corp. opened a $300 million hub at the airport.
Underpinning the aerotropolis vision is the need to develop a logistics-savvy workforce. Under the guidance of the Piedmont Triad leadership group's global logistics task force and the business community's logistics and distribution roundtable, a Center for Global Logistics will be built at Guilford Technical Community College in Greensboro. The center, scheduled for completion in 2011, will develop and coordinate logistics education and training programs among some 20 colleges and universities. The planning group's logistics task force has already met with educators at the region's public schools to begin work on introducing logistics careers at the high-school level and is exploring opportunities in the lower grades.