How can something so big go unnoticed?

Posted on 19 Apr 2007 at 7:07pm
By David Webb – The Rare Reporter

Inland port promises to give Dallas County major economic boost



David Webb – The Rare Reporter

One of the most amazing aspects of the planned 6,000-acre Dallas Logistics Hub in southern Dallas County is that few people seem to know much about it.

For two days prior to the grand opening celebration of the inland port on April 13, I mentioned to friends and co-workers that I was about to get my first helicopter ride during a tour of the planned construction site. In response, I got the same puzzled look and question from everyone I told “What is the inland port?”

That struck me as odd because the project is being touted as the largest economic engine to be built in the Metroplex since the opening of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in 1974. What’s more, Dallas voters approved a $33 million bond program for the project’s infrastructure in South Dallas in 2006.

“I don’t think people understand the enormity of this development,” said Mayor Laura Miller in an interview just moments before she spoke at the grand opening of the inland port.

She’s right. The project has apparently been overshadowed by more controversial issues, such as the Trinity River Corridor Project and the revitalization of Downtown Dallas.

I’ve known about the development since it was first proposed, but some of the projections of its economic impact still surprised me. As a central distribution point for goods to the Midwestern and Eastern areas of the country it is expected to create some 31,000 direct jobs and 32,000 indirect jobs. It is expected to increase the tax base of the four cities the development overlaps Dallas, Lancaster, Wilmer and Hutchins by $2.4 billion. It’s estimated economic impact from 2006 through 2035 is projected to be $68.85 billion.

Those projections suddenly made the mundane subject of importing and exporting goods infinitely more interesting. It means Dallas is about to become the largest trading center in the Southwestern United States, and that the development is going largely unnoticed by the people who stand to benefit the most from it.

Goods from Asia will make their way via highway and rail from the West Coast to Dallas for rerouting to the major population areas of the nation. Goods will also flow through Dallas from Canada and Mexico. A complex of warehouses, distribution facilities, retail support services, hotels, restaurants and single- and multi-family housing will be built to accommodate the industry. It will all be situated next to Union Pacific’s Southern Dallas Intermodal Terminal and a complex of major highways.

Mayor Miller said she expects the project to quickly grow to include air transportation shipments. The Lancaster Airport is in the master-planning stage to accommodate air cargo distribution.

“We don’t have the 747s yet, but there is room to grow,” said Miller, who noted the city’s master plan is “Live large, think big.”

During my helicopter tour of the site, all I saw on the ground was acres and acres of green farmland and endless miles of highways and railroad tracks exactly what is needed for the development of a major transportation hub. In the distance I saw Downtown Dallas’ stunning skyline looming through the clouds.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to see the undeveloped site from the air because dramatic change is about to come quickly. The project’s developers, The Allen Group of San Diego, have announced plans to start construction on two industrial buildings, which when completed in late 2007 will feature a total of 850,000 square feet.

About 1,000 government officials and business leaders attended the grand opening ceremony at the Lancaster Airport another sign of just how important this project will be, not only to the city but the country as a whole.

Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams told the audience that Texas has always been a land of opportunity. The state has led the nation in export revenues for the last five years, and the development of the inland port will increase that advantage by creating an “unlimited future,” he said.

“This project reminds me that every night when we go to bed and every morning when we wake up we are ahead of the competition,” Williams said.

From the way it looks now, the planned South Dallas inland port that most people seem to know little about is going to be the driving force in keeping the state in that position in the years to come. And that makes South Dallas County look a whole lot more attractive than it ever has before.

E-mail webb@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 20, 2007.

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