As Georgia’s economy regains its footing, business and government leaders are able to focus on economic growth. A key economic driver for the state will be its freight and logistics industry.
The business of moving goods among growers, suppliers, manufacturers, vendors and consumers is successful. It represents a $15 billion-a-year industry. Five freight and logistics components of our overall economy — manufacturing, construction, retail, utilities and agriculture — generate more than $100 billion of yearly output. Some economists give those sectors a growth potential of 75 to 200 percent in the next 35 years.
Ports in Savannah and Brunswick generate some $67 billion in yearly sales and $2.5 billion in state and local tax revenues. They provide jobs for more than 352,000 Georgians. An ongoing expansion of the Panama Canal is projected to create a significant increase in freight shipments entering the United States via East Coast ports.
The Georgia Department of Transportation is working with public and private partners to understand, prepare for, and capture this incoming freight. A deepened ship channel serving Savannah and the planned new port in Jasper, S.C., will lead to savings of approximately $213 million a year nationally in reduced shipping costs and ensure Georgia’s position as a focal point of international commerce. A comprehensive Georgia DOT study of all modes of the state’s freight and logistics industry points to possible overall gains of $65 billion and thousands of new jobs during the next four decades.
We will not be able to “wish” ourselves to this reality. We must commit to it in policy and in practice.
Working with the Ports Authority, the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Center of Innovation for Logistics, and major railroads and industry leaders, we have developed a comprehensive statewide Freight and Logistics Action Plan (www.dot.ga.gov/freight). It is an expansive agenda to make Georgia the “Global Gateway of Choice.”
An investment of $15 billion is recommended; more than $9 billion is just for highways. Among the plan’s highway recommendations:
• Creating additional long-haul capacity on I-85 in each direction from Gwinnett County to South Carolina and from Meriwether County to Alabama; on I-75 between Atlanta and Macon, and on Ga. 20 from Douglas County to Alabama.
• Improving I-285’s six metro Atlanta interchanges with I-85, I-75 and I-20.
• Rebuilding the I-75/I-16 interchange in Macon.
• Improving the I-95 interchanges with I-16 and Ga. 21 in Savannah.
• Widening and improving other corridors such as U.S. 84 and Ga. 133 in South Georgia and U.S. 441 between I-85 and I-16.
• Improving the “last mile” routes near the Port of Savannah and numerous warehouse and distribution facilities along Ga. 6 on Atlanta’s west side.
These will be expensive and time-consuming projects. Some are under way. We’re seeking innovative ways to deliver the others.
Georgia will maintain and expand its role as a global hub for freight and logistics.