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Sunday, 13 October 2013 22:00

Collaboration key to identifying logistics opportunities

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David Boerema of Michigan Terminal LLC and the Shippers Alliance of Michigan wants to see more companies and economic development groups collaborate on logistics issues in the state to position the industry as an economic driver.  David Boerema of Michigan Terminal LLC and the Shippers Alliance of Michigan wants to see more companies and economic development groups collaborate on logistics issues in the state to position the industry as an economic driver. MIBIZ FILE PHOTO

Logistics companies and economic developers want to study the local logistics industry so they can band together to better advocate for the sector and forge collaborations.

A 2011 Business Leaders for Michigan report on the logistics industry posits that the state could generate up to 60,000 new jobs and $10 billion in economic development over 25 years if both the public and private sector could fully leverage all the available assets.

This means investing in multimodal transportation hubs, international trade routes, bolstering port infrastructure and air travel capacity, improving road conditions and a number of other costly investments. The upshot, according to the report, is that the state’s strategic location, skilled workforce and current infrastructure provide the foundational elements to unlock more growth in the state.

To fully achieve the vision set out in the report, the public and private sector will need to collaborate, as well as get a better picture of the logistics industry in Michigan.

There is a lot of talk around the state about identifying where to best locate logistics clusters and implement multimodal investments among other efforts, said Les Brand, CEO of Supply Chain Solutions.

“It’s happening right now and happening in different cells,” Brand said. “But it needs to come together. We have to build awareness and businesses need to step up to the plate. There are many (businesses) who aren’t really focused on this.”

The state’s economic growth engine is just starting to rev up and if the logistics sector is neglected or gets taxed in a way that drives out business, it could lead to Michigan losing out in the industry, he said.

“You have to get all the wheels down, and supply chain is a big piece of that,” Brand said. “It’s not just about transportation, highway and roads. It’s about really taking a look at how to get products to other markets, which extends beyond getting out of Michigan. Having the right intelligence and capabilities to do that is what’s really going to be the economic driver for the state.”

To that end, groups such as the Shippers Alliance of Michigan and The Right Place Inc. are both pursuing long-term initiatives to gather information about how best to move forward in the development of logistics capabilities.

“The Shippers Alliance is working on making things better for the shipper, the trucker and the rail operator, but it’s hard to do,” said David Boerema, president of the alliance and president of Michigan Terminals LLC. “As a state, we’re in a position with the right people to create a complete understanding of what we do, what the connections look like and how we build our supply chain.

“Sometimes at the decision-making level, we get tunnel vision, and that’s where boots on the ground and trench knowledge need to be involved to come together. That’s where West Michigan has to come together to drive policy.”

The Right Place is currently in the process of surveying West Michigan companies to get a deeper understanding of the types of products being shipped, their destinations and recipients. The data-gathering process is looking to create a clearer picture of how much freight is moving in and out of West Michigan.

“This has never been done before at the scale to which we’re doing it,” said Rick Chapla, vice president of business development at The Right Place. “The scale of information is voluminous, and eventually we want to take this out on a broader regional basis, beyond our Tier 1 companies. This is not quick process.”

The goal of the data gathering is to get a baseline read on where the logistics industry is at in West Michigan and determine how best to leverage the region’s current strengths going forward, Chapla said.

“For the region to continue to compete economically, it’s necessary for us to have good infrastructure — plain and simple,” he said. “So I think we need to continue to look at this as a very important component. This assessment process of documenting inbound and outbound movement is very significant and has big implications. It just takes time.”

Read 4019 times Last modified on Friday, 11 October 2013 10:58

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