Reprinted from CHICAGO SOUTHLAND BUSINESS, July, 2006

The Joliet Region: For Shippers, Its The Third Coast

When U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez toured DSC Logistics’ one-million-square-foot Logistics Center and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Logistics park Chicago, in March, he called it “the best example I can think of for the rest of the country.” He said to local business and community leaders, “You’ve got to be very proud of what you’ve done here.” According to Gutierrez, the huge transportation hub, located on the site of the former Joliet Arsenal in Elwood, represents the future.

The secretary of Commerce was struck by the location of the large distribution hub in the middle of the country rather than on a coast. In fact, while it may not be on a n ocean, the Southland Joliet corridor is emerging as the third coast. Shipping through the BNSF intermodal yard in Elwood, companies can avoid the congestion oat the West Coast ports and the challenges of other Chicago area intermodal yards. There’s a direct link to Asia.

When Gutierrez, former chief executive of Kellogg, and U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller, of Morris, spoke to area residents and business people on the tour, Weller referred to Turtle Wax as an example of Illinois companies reaching the world through the distribution center. Chicago-based Turtle Wax sends its good to more than 60 countries and has shipped 7.6 million cases of products through DSC since October 2004.

Nothing that the huge distribution operation is only at 20 percent capacity, Gutierrez said, “As large as it is, you can grow it five times, which is incredible. You’re huge, and you’re just getting started.” Right now, the CenterPoint Intermodal Center has about 7 million square feet of developed space. The number of containers moving through the facility is expected to reach 800,000 in 2006 and 1.5 million in 2007. And, the adjacent BNSF yard is a major transfer point for goods moved by ship and rail.

Gutierrez is right: the Elwood site is huge and it’s just getting started. And, it’s not only government officials who are noticing. With increasing globalization and outsourcing, the site attracts both West Coast companies with customers east of the Mississippi and Chicago area companies alike. Companies like a Seattle-based software game company looking to deploy imported products to the East Coast and Midwest have asked for tours of DSC’s facility. A California-based entertainment technology media company came to look and decided to partner with DSC to ship imported electronics to East Coast and Midwest customer locations. Another DSC customer recently moved to an aggressive overseas manufacturing strategy and was attracted to the site due to the BNSF intermodal yard.

Industry organizations, foreign and domestic, have also toured the site to learn about innovations in their field. For instance, the Japan Institute of Logistics Systems sent a group of 20 to tour DSC’s Elwood facility. The Institute, a non-profit charter to promote efficiency and advancements in logistics, conducts overseas tours of modern logistics facilities in the U.S. association dedicated to warehousing and distribution professionals, the Warehouse Education and Research Council (WERC), toured DSC’s operations last summer. And, the American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS) sent a large group of 30-40 manufacturing professionals who wanted to tour the modern logistics center positioned next to the new intermodal yard.

To some, it may seem like this future-facing transportation center is in the middle of nowhere, but, as the Secretary of Commerce and an increasing number of companies know, it’s in the middle of everything ... proximity to interstate highways and rail ... intermodal access ... a Foreign Trade Zone. Elwood is linked directly to Asia, and we can expect more and more businesses to take advantage of that link.
© Copyright Chicago Southland Business. July 2006. All rights reserved.

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