The 6 Best Cities for Logistics Professionals
As a freight broker responsible for cultivating your own book of business, it helps to understand which cities are the most logistics-friendly for shippers. Whether it's easy access to multiple modes of transportation, a history of being a transportation hub, or natural settings – like lakes or rivers – conducive to shipping, some cities are better suited than others to logistics.
In this blog post, we'll look at the best cities for transportation, distribution, and logistics (TD&L) professionals.
Often considered the heart of the American transportation system, Chicago is a hotbed for logistics. The city is regarded as one of the country’s largest tech hubs, making it a prime location for cost-conscious shippers and logistics companies.
In the early 1900s, Chicago established itself as a major transportation hub when it became the railroad center of the United States. While Chicago's assets have extended far beyond the railroad, the city continues to have a robust intermodal network. This infrastructure allows for the seamless movement of goods throughout one of the largest global intermodal systems.
Chicago's location near Lake Michigan and the Chicago and Calumet rivers gives the city access to a network of waterways, including international markets via the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. Chicago's O'Hare is one of the top U.S. airports for moving cargo, and the metro area's extensive highway system makes it ideal for over-the-road transportation.
Since 1980 Chicago has separated itself from the rest of the nation as a premier location for transportation brokers and logistics providers. The metro area is home to over 16,000 TD&L companies, drawing on both experienced individuals and recent college graduates from the extensive network of colleges and universities throughout the Midwest.
Having several major interstates, including I-24, I-59, and I-75, Chattanooga is an excellent location for over-the-road transportation. From Chattanooga, a truck can reach more than 40 percent of the U.S. population in a day. It’s accessible to 80 percent of the nation within just two days. Due to its extensive connectivity, several fortune 500 companies, including FedEx, Whirlpool, and Coca-Cola, have recently established distribution centers in the area.
Numerous other companies pertinent to TD&L are headquartered in Chattanooga, including FreightWaves, a top provider of global supply chain news and market intelligence, and leading third-party logistics providers, including Steam Logistics, Lipsey Logistics, and Kenco.
Chattanooga is located within two hours of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, a leading college for supply chain professionals. A public school with over 30,000 students, the University has comprehensive program options for supply chain professionals at undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels.
Located in the heart of Ohio, Columbus has long been a prime location for distribution centers. Currently, the region's eight major interstates provide access to half of the U.S. and one-third of Canada in less than one day. The city is also home to many Fortune 500 companies, including Bath and Body Works, Big Lots, Elmer’s, Lane Bryant, Safelite, Victoria’s Secret, and Wendy’s.
The Rickenbacker Inland Port in Columbus is a high-speed multimodal logistics hub providing more than 60 million square feet of distribution space and access to the Port Columbus International Airport. The port is also home to the Rickenbacker International Airport, which provides 500,000-plus square feet of air cargo facility space.
Additionally, Ohio State University, located in Columbus, is another top school for logistics professionals. The college instructs on all parts of the supply chain, including planning, control, operations, production, storage, and distribution.
Continued growth, robust infrastructure, and strategic location make Charlotte ideal for distribution and logistics. Located on the East Coast between major ports and inland cities, the Charlotte region provides easy access to most of the U.S. population.
Transportation assets include the Charlotte Douglas International Airport (the sixth busiest airport in the U.S.), the intersection of two major interstate highways, an inland terminal operated by the North Carolina Ports Authority, Norfolk Southern's state-of-the-art intermodal facility, and CSX's recently launched direct rail service to the Port of Wilmington.
Phoenix is a significant distribution and logistics hub with excellent access to other major locations, superior supply chain programs, and high-quality infrastructure. Arizona has the second-most reliable power grid in the nation, recording only 33 total hours of disturbances over the last decade.
More than 1,700 miles of rails connect Phoenix to the Southwest and Mexico. The city also boasts 17 airports, including Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. The latter will house the nation's first joint U.S.-Mexico inspection facility, allowing companies to transport goods between the two countries quickly and efficiently.
With a population inching toward two million, Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the U.S. and one of the fastest-growing. A number of colleges and universities near Phoenix offer supply chain programs, including Arizona State University, Grand Canyon University, and Northern Arizona University. This is a big asset for logistics companies headquartered in Phoenix, such as Swift Transportation and Knight Transportation, that are looking to get young new hires in the door.
Orlando has long been moving people and products, with connectivity options via road, sea, air, and rail. The city is located at the crossroads of Florida's highway network, providing a centralized location for distribution and warehousing. One can reach three major ports and nine international airports in a two-hour drive.
Orlando is looking to the future by investing over $12 billion in transportation infrastructure investments. These investments include the $3.1 billion Orlando International Airport expansion, a $9 million investment to improve roads around the Intermodal Logistics Center in Winter Haven, and the I-4 improvement project.
Hit the Ground Running
If you're looking to get started in logistics or expand your career path, here are some resources to help you get started:
- The 5 Best Colleges for Supply Chain Professionals
- Graduating Soon? Consider a Career in Logistics
- Logistics Terms Every Transportation Professional Should Know
- Should I Become a Freight Agent?
In addition to having offices in Charlotte, Chicago, and Boise, our agent network spans 40 U.S. states and four Canadian provinces. We know you can work from anywhere, but consider one of these six locations if you're looking to relocate.
For an agency partnership experience that includes training opportunities, technology options tailored to your needs, and industry-leading commission splits, reach out to us.
About Taylor Borum
Taylor joined Armstrong in 2021, serving as the team's Marketing Coordinator. A native of North Carolina, she moved to Charlotte in 2018 after graduating from Appalachian State University with her bachelor’s in Communication Studies. She's a passionate writer, having curated a diverse range of blog posts, articles, press releases, feature stories, webpage copy, social media posts, and more.