On June 1, 2011 over 40 transportation and logistics professionals, representing companies from Henderson and Buncombe counties convened for the Western North Carolina Transportation Alliance’s Spring Meeting. Daniel Findley, a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE),served as the keynote speaker. Findley has been involved in a recent project to develop a statewide logistics plan for North Carolina and is currently a member of the team working on the Seven Portals Study, a project designed to identify long term economic, mobility and infrastructure needs for the state. As a specialist in transportation-related infrastructure, Findley’s past work has played a significant role in measuring the economic impact of North Carolina’s transportation systems including highways, airports and ports.
According to Findley, the focus of his work and the Seven Portals Study is to ensure that funding for transportation assets in North Carolina mirrors the needs of business and commerce. “Historically transportation infrastructure i.e. roads, rail and ports have been built to support the needs of commerce. Over the past decade projects focused on personal traffic have become increasingly popular. The Seven Portal Study is an effort to correct this emerging trend and ensure North Carolina continues to be a hub for economic growth,” says Findley. The western North Carolina region is among the most vital areas in the State from a logistics and transportation perspective. Findley continued, “Henderson and Buncombe counties are well positioned to serve markets that other regions in North Carolina have difficulty reaching. These markets include: Atlanta, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Huntsville, etc.” Several advantages in WNC include the region’s access to multiple port authorities. “While many operations in North Carolina’s piedmont and eastern regions rely solely on ports in Moorehead City and Wilmington (non-deepwater ports), operations in WNC are geographically closer to ports in Charleston and Savannah, both of which are capable of deepwater access. WNC’s proximity to assets outside North Carolina are examples of why the Seven Portals Study takes into account transportation venues in surrounding states,” says Findley.
Following Findley’s presentation, Charlie Diehl, a member of the Governor’s Logistics Task Force and consultant for NCDOT, provided an update on legislative initiatives currently underway. Diehl stressed the importance of Henderson and Buncombe counties as a gateway to WNC and surrounding states. He said, “most locations in the WNC region are less than 60 miles from several nearby states including: South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.” In an effort to identify areas that can be improved, the NC Department of Transportation is requesting that stakeholders in the private sector participate in a short online survey designed to obtain feedback from those individuals who rely on North Carolina’s transportation assets for commerce purposes.
Concluding the event, John Franklin with Volvo provided an update on the Alliance’s efforts to connect local companies with shared freight and logistics needs. According to Franklin, four companies have now reported freight sharing activity. Savings due directly to these local relationships have reached $307,652 USD, equivalent to the elimination of 294,000 deadhead miles and 42,000 gallons of fuel. According to Franklin,“sharing freight and reducing the number of trucks transporting goods across the country has allowed WNCTA companies to cut CO2 emissions by 924,000 lbs.” These lane matching activities are a direct result of companies who have participated in the WNCTA lane matching events. For more information about this group please contact Josh Hallingse at the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development for information on how your company can be involved in this initiative.