Electronic retail effects on airports and regional development

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Hylton, Peter J.
Ross, Catherine L.
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This dissertation is an investigation of the relationship between e-retail logistics (e-fulfillment) and aviation, and of airport staff’s planning responses to e-fulfillment. By its nature, planning requires a thorough understanding of the forces on transportation and land use that can affect areas of planning interest. Electronic retail (e-retail) is one such trend whose rapid growth influences airport activity, demand for industrial real estate, workforce needs, and surface transportation infrastructure. E-retail’s growth alters regions’ attractiveness for logistics development, the strategies needed to promote the industry, and the data and models required to prepare for its transportation, land use, and workforce needs. This study’s objective is to provide guidance to urban and airport planners on the relevant effects on e-fulfillment as well as appropriate planning responses. The dissertation includes a three-part analysis. A location model measures differences between the sales channels in the regional and airport traits associated with logistics activity. A survey of retail shippers is intended to examine associations detected in the logistics model and measure their relative strength by documenting differences in operations and regional needs between DCs and FCs. Interviews with logistics professionals supplement the shipper survey. Analysis 3 examines the extent to which airport staffs are planning for changes in cargo patterns associated with e-fulfillment through planning document reviews and interviews with staff at seven airports served by Amazon Prime Air. Dissertation results indicate that e-retailers choose FC location as a function of customer proximity, airport access, integrator hub proximity, and a variety of regional factors with weaker effects. E-retail activity will continue to generate disproportionate air cargo activity while concentrating logistics facilities in the same regions as large customer bases, integrator air hubs, and international gateway airports. These patterns will impact infrastructure and land needs, and planners should incorporate these trends into their forecasts and strategies. Airport planners are increasingly aware of e-retail’s cargo generation potential, and they are gathering data in an ad hoc manner to understand it. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of implications of the research for airport and transportation planners, economic development planners, and land use planners. Logistics activity related to e-retail is expected to grow in coming decades, concentrating particularly around logistics hubs and population centers in the Northeast, Ohio River Valley, and major metropolitan areas.
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