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A Publication of WTVP

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could identify an industry that creates non-exportable jobs that will stay in our community? An industry with characteristics that indicate long-term, sustained growth and durability? Wouldn’t it be great if central Illinois were uniquely well suited to capitalize on the growth of that industry?

Fortunately for central Illinois, that industry already exists. Supply chain management, intermodal logistics, warehousing and distribution-no matter what you call it, the potential economic growth that can be stimulated through aggressively developing this industry segment in central Illinois is quite significant. Now, through the efforts of the EDC and the Heartland Partnership, central Illinois is poised to become a Midwestern powerhouse in the supply chain management industry.

The first thing to understand about this industry is that infrastructure is key. Infrastructure is the primary resource in demand in the field of supply chain management. The logistics market hinges on the ability to move products from supply to demand in a quick and efficient manner.

The Peoria area has invested billions of dollars in local infrastructure over the course of many years-infrastructure that’s currently underutilized. Complex distribution channels that were established to move materials and products into and out of Caterpillar are now operating below capacity. These channels can be utilized through the development of the logistics industry in central Illinois, capitalizing on the investment that’s already been made in supply chain infrastructure.

With infrastructure such a key component to this industry, it’s clear the barriers to entry for regions that wish to capitalize on the growth of this industry can be quite high. Interstate accessibility, railways, barge transportation, and air accessibility are difficult resources to acquire. Furthermore, many features unique to this high-growth industry, like the ability to switch distribution modes to adapt to unexpected situations, exist in central Illinois. This highly marketable function is known as intermodal distribution. Access to rail, air, barge, and truck distribution channels is a tremendous asset in central Illinois’ favor. In addition, these modes of distribution are currently under-optimized and can be quickly utilized as the growth of the logistics industry in central Illinois demands.

The growth of e-commerce has spurred a heightened level of construction in state-of-the-art distribution channels. The heightened demand is from retailers and logistics firms that have had to quickly develop processes and markets capable of responding to the buying power of consumers. A steady demand has been created for warehousing at all levels, reflected in strong supply/demand trends across markets. U.S. industrial markets that are untapped, but offer strong transportation amenities, will be targeted by logistics companies looking to get closer to their consumers and save on occupancy costs.

It’s also worth noting that regardless of where goods and products are manufactured, they must still be transferred from point A to point B. Even as manufacturing jobs in some sectors are transferred overseas, distribution channels and logistics centers must still be located in the United States.

Of course, we can’t overlook one of our most fortunate assets-our location. The link between the distribution industry, manufacturers, corporate systems, and consumer spending is clear. To get products to purchasers, proximity is a key issue. In some instances, supply chain planners have sought out rural communities, which can provide the easy accessibility combined with additional conveniences such as less congestion, lower operating costs, and affordable land.

The Peoria area is situated in the center of the agricultural heart of the U.S. Central Illinois is in an excellent position to capitalize on the great presence of commodities and prime agricultural resources. In addition, the Peoria area is within one day’s drive of nearly half of the nation’s population, giving the region excellent access not just to agriculture and commodities, but to the nation’s demand base as well.

Soon, you’ll begin hearing details about the development of the Heart of Illinois Regional Port District-a legal entity that will facilitate the development of the district’s six-county area as a Midwest hub for distribution and supply chain management throughout the nation.

The Heart of Illinois Port District represents an opportunity not only to foster regional cooperation and coordination on a large scale, but also to capitalize on the unique advantages and strengths the central Illinois region possesses within the intermodal transportation/supply chain management industry. The ultimate effect of these initiatives will be significant job creation and economic development opportunities for the entire central Illinois region.

It’s the intent of the Heartland Partnership to work with central Illinois civic leaders to foster community coordination and develop a visioning statement for the district. By capitalizing on our resources, the Economic Development Council will develop a powerful economic generator within the Peoria area. By plane, train, truck, and boat-it’s time to see real economic growth. It’s time to make our move in the supply chain management industry. IBI

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