Consumers love e-commerce for the ability to order everything from ski poles to suntan lotion with a few taps on a digital device and then have the order show up on their doorstep within two days. Fulfilling those expectations has put pressure on everyone from retailers to parcel carriers, but one part of the supply chain in particular is scrambling to meet demand—inland ports.
The rapid growth of e-commerce has fueled development of warehouses and distribution centers in the 12 primary U.S. inland-port markets at nearly twice the national rate, according to a new report from commercial real estate company CBRE Group Inc. Collectively, the 12 inland ports saw their base of industrial properties expand by 2.7 percent in this year's first quarter, far outpacing the national average growth rate of 1.6 percent, according to CBRE's "2016 North America Inland Port Logistics Report." (For purposes of the report, the company defines inland ports as those having "a Class I rail connection to a major seaport and also having access to significant transportation infrastructure, be it rail, highway, waterway, or a combination of the three.")
According to CBRE, the explosive growth can be traced to e-commerce, which has "flooded U.S. seaports with an unprecedented volume of foreign cargo destined for markets across the U.S." The seaports, in turn, route the incoming cargo to nearby inland ports, where it can be handled, warehoused, and broken into smaller batches for distribution to regional consumers.
The fastest-growing inland ports in the study included Southern California's Inland Empire (which reported growth of 4.3 percent), Greenville, S.C. (4.2 percent), and Atlanta and Dallas/Fort Worth (both at 3.6 percent). Rounding out the top 12 were Phoenix; Kansas City; Houston; St. Louis; Chicago; Memphis, Tenn.; Columbus, Ohio; and East and Central Pennsylvania.