Reprinted from JOLIET HERALD NEWS, March 23, 2006

U.S. Official lauds Centerpoint
Cabinet member: Commerce chief tours Elwood site

ELWOOD—U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez on Wednesday called the distribution hub here the future of the American economy.

Gutierrez toured the CenterPoint Intermodal Center and BNSF Logistics Park Chicago that brings in manufactured products from Asia and ships out smaller numbers of products made in the United States.

The commerce secretary described the industrial park as an example of free trade working for the U.S. economy.

"This is the future," Gutierrez told a group of community leaders and local business people. "You're a great example for the rest of the country, and you've got to be very proud of what you've done here."

The CenterPoint Intermodal Center and BNSF Logistics Park Chicago are on land carved out of the former Joliet Arsenal and converted to industrial use.

Asked what he found unique about the facility, Gutierrez noted that such large distribution operations typically are located on the coasts.

"One thing that struck me about this facility is that it's not on the ocean," he said, adding that the hub is only at 20 percent of capacity. "As large as it is, you can grow it five times, which is incredible. You're huge, and you're just getting started."

Currently, CenterPoint Intermodal Center has about 7 million square feet of developed space.

Projects at the site include a 3.4 million-square-foot facility under construction for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which would be one of the largest distribution centers in the United States.

About 1,500 people work at the Elwood distribution hub, and 500,000 cargo containers moved through the facility last year.

"There's a container entering this facility every 72 seconds," said U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Morris, who hosted Gutierrez's tour. Weller said the number of containers moving through Elwood is expected to reach 800,000 this year and 1.5 million in 2007.

Weller and Gutierrez spoke to the area residents and business people inside a 1 million-square-foot facility used by DSC Logistics to distribute products for six companies, including Yamaha and Turtle Wax.

Weller touted the Turtle Wax car-care products as a sign of Illinois companies reaching the world through the distribution center.

He said 7.6 million cases of Turtle Wax products have been shipped through DSC Logistics since October 2004, noting that the Chicago-based company sends its goods to more than 60 countries.

"Trade is a two-way street," Weller said. "We trade products coming in and, of course, products going out."

The BNSF logistics yard, which is part of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., is a transfer point for goods moved by ship and rail. It handles a much higher share of imports than exports.

A BNSF official said the company handles about 100 containers of imported goods for every 30 containers of U.S. exports it sends out.

But Gutierrez, former chief executive of Kellogg Co., said free trade works for the United States and American workers.

"I want to remind you that we are today the fastest growing industrialized economy in the world," Gutierrez said. "One of the reasons we're doing that is because we decided to compete and engage the world in free and open trade."

Gutierrez said the United States economy is growing at a rate of 3.5 percent. The nation's 4.8 percent unemployment rate is less than half of the jobless rate in Germany, and, "They have a trade surplus," he said.
© Copyright Joliet Herald Review. March 23, 2006. Business. Bob Okon. All rights reserved.

Contact us for more information.