In 2007, Expansion Management Magazine published the results of its seventh annual Logistics Quotient Survey on the U.S. Metropolitan areas with the strongest and most robust logistics infrastructure. This study examines ten logistical categories in each of the 362 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in the United States and then ranks each of the MSAs based on highest overall percentiles (where 99% is the highest and 1% is the lowest). The ten categories consisted of: the overall transportation and warehousing industry climate; workforce labor costs/availability/skills level; road/highway basic infrastructure; road density and congestion; road and bridge conditions; interstate highway access; fuel taxes and fees; railroad services; water ports (i.e., river, lake, ocean); and air cargo service.
The top 20% of the MSAs are then classified as the “5 Star” or strongest logistical areas. In the most recent 2007 study, the Cleveland Metropolitan Statistical Area received a 5 Star rating with an overall score of 98% out of a possible 99%. In fact, only 5 other MSAs across the U.S. scored higher with a 99% overall score.
The region is served by eleven airports with four that have major length runways. Of these, two are major passenger airports with the remaining nine smaller airports primarily handling freight and cargo. The primary airport in the region is Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) located in the southern part of Cuyahoga County. According to the airport over 320 flights to over 80 destinations, domestic and worldwide, are offered each day. The Akron-Canton Regional Airport (CAK), located on the borders of Summit and Stark Counties is one of the fastest growing airports in the United States. Between 2001 and 2006 the Federal Aviation Agency ranked it as the second fastest growing airport in the country.
Over the last century, the region has served as one of the nation’s key transportation hubs for over the road freight carriers. Currently, the Northeast Ohio region is the home for 16 long distance freight companies. The region is within a 500-mile radius of 41% of all U.S. households, 55% of all U.S. manufacturing facilities, 58% of the top 500 U.S. industrial headquarters, and 56% of the top 500 U.S. service corporate headquarters. Also, the region is located within 500 miles of Canada’s major 15 metropolitan areas (Toronto, Montreal) and 65% of Canadian GDP (Northeast Ohio International Business Network, 2006). Concurrent with this, the Federal Highway Administration currently rates the Cleveland MSA as 6th in the United Sates for best interstate highway connectivity.
With Lake Erie bordering the north part of the region and the Ohio River on the southeastern corner of the area, Northeast Ohio is well positioned to move raw materials and finished goods via the waterways. Ports in Cleveland and Lorain provide excellent dock space at full seaway (27 feet) depth. Both facilities have significant holding space and can easily accommodate the intermodal movement of goods. Both of these ports have direct access to the US interstate highway system. Norfolk Southern and CSX railroad operations are in close proximity as is Cleveland Hopkins Airport.
Lesser known than the Lake Erie ports, the Ports of Columbiana County account for the handling of over 15 million tons of cargo on the Ohio River each year. This is extremely important as the Ohio River is a main conduit for the internal rivers and waterways running throughout the United States. According to Cleveland Plus (2007) the Ohio River accounts for over one-third of the maritime cargo moving inland in the United States each year, (approximately 275 million tons) and by comparison handles more cargo per year than the Panama Canal. When combined with the adjacent 10 county Port of Pittsburgh system, Columbiana County constitutes the 7th largest Port in the United States.
According to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (2007), Northeast Ohio is served by three Class1 carrier railways and approximately 20 short line railroad companies. It is important to note that as part of its multimodal transportation plan, the State of Ohio has a long-standing commitment to insure that all areas in the state have access to railway lines. Three statewide programs currently exist to achieve this goal. First, the goal of Rail Construction Program is to provide funds to new or expanding industries for rail siding construction. Second, the Rail Rehabilitation Program offers funding to refurbish old, deteriorated tracks and to construct other needed facilities. Third, the Rail Acquisition Program works with both local governments and private investors to encourage short lines to stay in business and to acquire those lines threatening to go out of business.
Therefore, Northeast Ohio is ideally positioned as one of the major transportation hubs in the United States. According to the Northeast Ohio International Business Network (2006), the region
- Is the home for numerous major trucking firms
- Has 30 steamship companies
- Is the third largest port on the Great Lakes
- Contains a major rail corridor
- Has two major airports and a major air freight terminal
- Has over 1,500 miles (2,400km) of super highways
- Is supported by two Foreign-Trade Zones