The Life Stream of Economic Growth
By: Alexandra K. Wood
Every economic development thought leader will tell you that infrastructure and access to markets is one of the key pillars in a region’s ability to move forward in growth. It is why great historic commercial centers were founded on waterways, then later at railroad junctions and, in recent history, around the interstate system. Multi-billion dollar projects like I-4 Ultimate are reminders of the importance of this vital dimension, along with dramatic expansions to the Orlando International Airport and the Brightline, bringing service between south and central Florida.
Central Florida is unique in boasting a penta-modal transportation structure. You can travel by rail, air, water, road and even space. Each of these modes of transportation contribute to Central Florida’s economy in their own way, but what happens when these modes are combined?
One example that might provide some answers to these questions is the Titusville Logistics Center still in early stage development.
Distribution centers and transportation hubs bring in business, create jobs and generate revenue. In 2013, officials at Port Canaveral announced plans to develop an inland port facility in North Brevard near the Port St. John area south of Titusville.
Named the Titusville Logistics Center, the transportation hub will be a distribution center for cargo to manage the port’s commercial business. With over a mile of Florida East Coast Railway frontage and interstate highway access to I-95 and SR 528 into Orlando, the facility will be a key southern player in the distribution industry.
Located near facilities that were originally used for a power plant, Post explained, “They had created a docking area where barges could come in and that was largely used when the plant was in operation, but it’s been obsolete since then.
They also had, as part of their power plant, some adjacent lands and next to it were lands that were owned by Flagler Railroad, a Florida East Coast Railway line,” said Troy Post, Executive Director of North Brevard Economic Development Zone. The old plant was replaced with the $1 billion-plus natural gas Cape Canaveral Clean Energy Center.
The port will be leasing portions of the building, which can be leased out in sections of about 22,000 square feet or more if needed.
John Murray, Director and CEO of Port Canaveral believes the potential for Port Canaveral’s cargo niche is something for which they are well positioned. “Right out here we have an NYK vessel discharging automobiles,” Murray said, looking out the windows of the port’s headquarters. “Most people in this area don’t realize their car may have come in through Port Canaveral. This is a growth area for us; water is cheaper and produces less damage to the car. These cars are headed for Florida dealerships and they move by truck from here.”
Down the Road
Located 58 miles away in Daytona Beach, Volusia County is home to another regional distribution center.
In April of 2014, Volusia County passed an ordinance for Trader Joe’s to build a distribution center to service its 14 Florida stores and those in nearby states, with the closest branches in Winter Park and Orlando.
Emory Counts, economic/community development director of Daytona Beach, credits the distribution center for putting the town on the map for other outfits looking to locate in the area.
“Since Trader Joe’s came here, people started to say, ‘Well, wait a minute — take a look at this area down here,’ and lo and behold, when they started to look, they liked what they saw,” he said. “So we’ve been ‘hot,’ and one of the things that made it ‘hotter’ is Trader Joe’s and it really magnified our presence.”
The center exceeded its job figuration of 400 people, hiring managers, workers and drivers.
“The decision to locate the distribution center in Volusia County validates the transportation assets available in East Central Florida and the tremendous value that exists for similar firms to locate in Volusia County,” said Rob Ehrhardt, economic development director of Volusia County.
Still a Ways to Go
While the Titusville Logistics Center has the potential to be a transportation hub accessible by rail, road and water, the center still has a ways to go.
“The plans have kind of changed a bit at the port. They want to certainly be a cruise hub, but it’s a little bit harder to get into the commercial business for a variety of reasons,” Post said. “They still have an interest in trying to develop a commercial cargo side, but it may take a little bit longer to really revise some of the goals Mr. (John) Walsh [former Port Canaveral CEO] had set, simply because of the logistics involved in what they want to do.”
The first company moving in to the logistics center is not a commercial cargo firm, but a manufacturing firm that has business ties to the aerospace industry.
“It’s not exactly the type of industry we thought would go in there, but again it goes back to some of the challenges in trying to really develop a true inland port facility where you have containers coming to a location and being broken down and reshipped somewhere,” Post said.
For now, the port will continue to diversify the industries it does business with and develop connections that could lead to distribution partnerships.
“We’ve been primarily connected with aerospace, which is good,” said Post
“We still want to be a leader in aerospace, but at the same time we don’t want to be dependent upon that. We want to try and develop industries where maybe people are trying to expand their firms and could be getting into distribution.”
The port entered into a lease for a 225,000-square-foot building with Flagler Global Logistics, an integrated, third-party logistics provider and one of Florida’s largest, full-service commercial real estate companies. They broke ground on the building almost a year ago and a second 212,410-square-foot building is looking to join the first.
Location, Location, Location
Port Canaveral is the second busiest cruise port in the world. Its expansion into commercial cargo can be an important catalyst in feeding the Florida market. “Our opportunity is to be the port and gateway to the central Florida market, which is largely, but not exclusively, based on truck transport,” Murray said. “We are an alternative to the heavily congested south Florida gateways into central Florida. The I-4 corridor is growing and there is a move toward more distribution centers in Florida to feed the market here.”
The Port St. John community was the ideal location for the logistics center based on its access to key transportation arteries and strategic location just 35 miles from Orlando, said Post.