Logistics parks bring economic boost to Alabama

The network of logistics parks around Alabama is continuously expanding, creating warehouse space for retailers, manufacturers and others

Philip Burton at the new South Alabama Logistics Park, which welcomed its first tenants in 2022. Photo by Dan Anderson.

Order a book online, buy a new car at a dealership or purchase machine parts for your shop — the chances are pretty high that those items passed through a logistics park.

Simply put, logistics parks — sometimes called logistics centers — consist of clusters of industrial warehouses strategically positioned close to rail lines, roads, waterways or airports. Retailers and manufacturers use warehouse space to engage in handling, assembling, light manufacturing, storing or packing goods and materials before shipping them off to retail outlets or distribution centers.

The network of logistics parks around Alabama is continuously expanding with new ones being built across the state. Here’s a look at three that are changing the economic landscape in their regions.

Huntsville Logistics Center

The new Huntsville Logistics Center is a Class A industrial development site under construction along Old Highway 20 and Gunters Way and just off County Line Road.

Its 132 acres lie near the I-565, Greenbrier Parkway and Huntsville International Airport and industry heavy hitters like Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, Buffalo Rock, Amazon, Raytheon and NASA’s U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

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Once complete, the Huntsville Logistics Center’s four buildings will offer 2.2 million square feet of industrial warehouse space to lease from J.H. Berry & Gilbert Inc.

Edwin Moss, executive vice president of J.H. Berry & Gilbert.

“The Cooper Construction Team has made significant progress on grading the land site in the last few weeks for the Huntsville Logistics Center, and we expect phase one of the project to be complete by early 2024,” says J.H. Berry & Gilbert’s Executive Vice President Edwin Moss.

Moss says the build out of the logistics center will be “a phased development,” with buildings One and Two on the western part of the property making up the first phase of the project totaling over 1 million square feet and nearly $100 million of private capital investment.

“These buildings are unique to the market given that they will be the largest speculative industrial development in Huntsville with buildings ranging from 383,064 square feet to 587,645 square feet,” he says.

Moss says the warehouses will have the necessary depth to allow for more goods from inbound vehicles to be efficiently unloaded and then loaded onto outbound vehicles. The square footage, the depth and the clear height of 40 feet of the warehouses will make Huntsville Logistic Center buildings the ideal place for a variety of users to work, Moss says. 

“These buildings offer drive-through capabilities and are unique in the market as they can accommodate large square-foot tenant users with heavy transportation or utility needs with an expandable building connection option,” he says.

Moss says companies from a wide range of industries have already expressed their interest in setting up a logistics operation on the property.

“Due to the property’s unique offerings and strategic location, we’re confident that the property will continue to gain momentum as construction continues,” Moss says.

The $200 million project is a private investment, Moss says. The commercial real estate development firm, Flint Development, bought the land from a private seller.

“For projects such as this, the local municipalities don’t provide any incentives on the front end. However, if a manufacturing tenant ends up occupying any part or all of the facilities, there could be incentives for them given the nature of the workforce required for those operations,” he says.

And for the local economy, the Huntsville Logistics Center will bring in approximately 700 new, full-time jobs in addition to the 450 construction trade jobs to develop the logistics center facilities, Moss says.

“We’re confident that the true beneficiaries of this project will be the citizens of Huntsville.”

South Alabama Logistics Park, Mobile County

In Theodore, an unincorporated section of Mobile County, lies the South Alabama Logistics Park.

The park is located along the I-10 corridor, 12 miles from the Port of Mobile, I-65, Class I rail lines, two airports — including the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley — and thousands of miles of inland waterways.

“Those infrastructure assets that close to this particular site made Theodore the ideal location,” says Philip Burton, president and CEO of the Burton Property Group, which is developing SALP. 

The park property stretches some 1,300 acres and will be constructed in two phases. Phase I of the development is 500 acres with about 6 million square feet of industrial distribution warehouse space available for leasing, Burton says.

Phase Two will hold an additional 6 million square feet of warehouse and industrial space that will one day house warehouse distribution centers, manufacturers and companies serving the aerospace industry, he says.

Philip Burton, president and CEO of Burton Property Group.

“Our goal is to break ground on Phase Two within 48 months,” he says.

“There’s a huge need for newer modern facilities to be built to replenish existing product that’s in the market today,” Burton says.

“In addition to that, as the container terminal throughput grows, there’s going to be anywhere from 50 to 100 square feet of new warehousing square footage that’s needed to support each box that comes off the boat,” he says.

Burton says his firm is targeting companies such as manufacturers and suppliers, especially those with a need to import raw materials and export products from the Port of Mobile, to lease space in the SALP.

“We’re targeting manufacturers, we’re targeting warehouse distribution operators, and we’re targeting aerospace companies that want to be in close proximity to Airbus,” he says.

“We have over a dozen different companies in varying stages of negotiations. Companies that are U.S. domestic companies, but also international. Our hope is that by the end of this year, we’ll be able to announce as many as five new, additional companies into the park,” Burton says.

One company, DC Safety, recently moved its headquarters to the SALP, a $33.5 million investment and 51 new jobs to the area, according to the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. DC Safety manufactures and distributes first aid and preparedness accessories for the automotive industry. 

Meanwhile, another company, Averitt Express, has announced plans to make a $23 million capital investment with its plans to move into the SALP. While the warehouse space it will occupy is still under construction, Burton says construction is set to be completed later this year.

Averitt Express, which already has operations in Mobile, provides freight transportation and supply chain management solutions.

In 2021, both the city of Mobile and Mobile County each committed $3 million towards SALP for roads and infrastructure. But the majority of the project is privately funded, Burton says.

Overall, says Burton, the SALP will bring thousands of jobs to the county.

“We think that total employment out of this facility will be in the range of five to 10,000.”

Regional East Alabama Logistics Park

In east Alabama, a new master planned logistics park is in the works and promises to bring an economic boost to Macon County and its largest city, Tuskegee.

The Regional East Alabama Logistics Park is a nearly 700-acre project in Tuskegee, just off Exit 42 on I-85. It is 35 miles from the KIA auto assembly plant in West Point, Georgia; 55 miles from Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama in Montgomery; 8 miles from the Auburn Technology Park West and 210 miles from the Port of Mobile.

“The project will be done in three phases,” says Joe Turnham, director of the Macon County Economic Development Authority.

“The first phase was a 40-acre tract, which encompasses the 169,000-square-foot warehouse space. It’s currently being shown and quoted to a number of companies for uses either for warehouse logistics or manufacturing,” Turnham says.

Joe Turnham, director of the Macon County Economic Development Authority.

Farpoint Development, based in Chicago, is developing the site, and, according to MCEDA materials, the site will feature speculative and “build-to-suit industrial uses” for companies in need of space for assembly, manufacturing, logistics and general warehousing.

“Phase Two will be another 200 acres and then Phase Three will be about 450 acres,” Turnham says.

Building 100, built during Phase One, is a customizable 720-by-240-foot, Class A warehouse and manufacturing facility completed by Doster Construction and Farpoint in May and available for rent as of press time. Building 100’s listed features include a 32-foot ceiling and 36 dock doors.

Ultimately, the masterplan for R.E.A.L. is for up to 6.5 million square feet of logistics and warehouse manufacturing and fulfillment space, and so far, the range of industries that have expressed interest in renting warehouse space runs the gamut, Turnham says.

“We’ve had some local industries that have run out of warehouse and logistics space in neighboring communities that are looking at this space that’s ready to go. We’ve had several manufacturing concerns and we’ve had some in the automotive sector that have looked at this particular building that could fit those needs,” he says.

To help with sales, the Birmingham office of Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial real estate agency, is marketing the R.E.A.L. park internationally, Turnham says.

The R.E.A.L. park is paid for through a public-private partnership that includes MCEDA and the Macon County Commission. One of the investors is Opportunity Alabama, a nonprofit initiative that connects investors with assets in the state’s Qualified Opportunity Zones. Opportunity zones are a mechanism that lets individuals invest in distressed areas in the country.

Turnham says the new logistics center will provide a much-needed economic lift to the area.

“We could see 15 to 50 jobs and we’ve had projects that could be north of 200 to 300 jobs just in Building 100 alone.”

Gail Allyn Short and Dan Anderson are freelance contributors to Business Alabama. Short is located in Birmingham and Anderson in Mobile.

This article appears in the June 2023 issue of Business Alabama.

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