Georgia logistics industry will be crucial in coming decades

Like Georgia itself, the Augusta area is enjoying a rising tide of business success. In fact, the Augusta metro area is projected to grow 39 percent in population and 52 percent in employment opportunities over the next 20 years.


This expansion is driven in part by the high quality of life in the Augusta area and the attractive business climate in the state of Georgia. For the fourth consecutive year, Site Selection magazine has named Georgia the nation’s No. 1 state in which to do business.

Among the many reasons for this success is Georgia’s world-class transportation infrastructure and the logistics resources that drive business operations with exceptional efficiency. And this efficiency will be improving significantly over the course of the coming decade with new infrastructure and technologies that are afoot.

Poised to play an ever-increasing role in moving goods from producer to customer, Georgia’s businesses and residents are well positioned to benefit from our world-class transportation infrastructure and emerging technology trends in logistics.

THE INFRASTRUCTURE: Let’s first take a look at the fundamentals of our transportation infrastructure – the “cardiovascular system” of business.

The interstates that connect Georgia to the Southeast, the rest of the U.S. and to the world carry the “lifeblood” of our economy in nearly 40 million truckloads per day in Georgia, serving key industries such as agriculture, manufacturing and retail.

Among metro Augusta’s major employers who rely on Georgia’s logistics network are Textron Specialized Vehicles, Covidien, International Paper, Kellogg’s, FPL Food and Thermal Ceramics.

Connecting Georgia’s communities to the interstates and all points in between is a vital four-lane network of highways. This system will get even better in the near future because of the more than $14 billion in investment for maintenance and improvement around the state.

Specific for metro Augusta, the state is planning to spend more than $1.3 billion in the next couple decades, in combination with the local contribution of almost $300 million to improve and expand roadways in this vibrant and ­growing part of Georgia.

Georgia’s robust system of roads is complemented by a railway system that has been ranked third in the nation for accessibility, with more rail miles than any other Southeastern state. And we’re expanding access to the rail network, with intermodal ports in Cordele and Chatsworth. The Georgia Ports Authority is at the core of this effort, to support use of rail to move cargo into and out of the Port of Savannah, to all parts of Georgia and the United States.

Seagoing transportation is also a critical piece to Georgia’s success in the past decade and our future connectivity to a world of global commerce. The Port of Savannah is the nation’s fastest-growing deepwater container port. In fact, on the East Coast, only the Ports of New York and New Jersey carry more freight.

Finally, and perhaps most obvious to Georgians, is our accessibility to the nation and the world by air. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is the most-traveled airport on the globe.

“ATL” offers nonstop service to more than 60 international locations and is within a two-hour flight of 80 percent of the nation’s population. This impressive reach is especially beneficial to Georgia’s business that rely on air transport for their cargo, for time-sensitive and high-value products such as pharmaceuticals.

EMERGING LOGISTICS TECHNOLOGIES: In the unique role I serve at the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics, I’m honored and privileged to support our companies that help get goods to customers.

One aspect of this rewarding work is learning about trends and technologies that are emerging to improve our companies’ logistics options. While logistics has been refined and perfected over time, we’re seeing the emergence of new technologies that will make it more efficient than ever to move goods from one place to another. And there are many exciting new things ahead, many of which will be discussed by industry leaders at May’s ninth annual Georgia Logistics Summit.

One important trend is the digitization of the supply chain, which is rapidly replacing the old “clipboard-and-paper” approach.

The mechanics of digitization works like this: Data is collected on the whereabouts of cargo at every point in the supply chain. This data is reported in real time to the next handler or hauler of the cargo, and is ultimately used to analyze problem areas and capture opportunities that can improve overall operations of the transport and warehousing of inventory. The resulting transparency gives companies new visibility to knowing where its products are and how quickly those products are moving at any time.

Why does all this matter? Because the faster that products can arrive to their customers on time and undamaged, the faster the invoice can be paid! This pumps resources back into the business and back into the local economy more quickly, to support more growth, more jobs.

All in all, it’s an exciting time to work in the transportation and logistics industry, and an even more exciting time to be working with Georgia’s businesses.

Thanks to the leaders of our state government who are investing in our infrastructure, thanks to our customer-focused logistics industry, and thanks to the progress in technology, it’s especially exciting for all those interested in the economic future of the state of Georgia.

Jannine Miller is the director of the Center of Innovation for Logistics, a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.