Mobility, labor, and competitiveness drive discussion at annual freight symposium

How does Image of transportation modalitiesImage: Shutterstock the ability to move freight affect the economic health of a state, region, and even a city? How are the supply chains of businesses impacted by freight flow? And what challenges and opportunities does Minnesota face when it comes to leveraging and strengthening its freight modes?

The 2016 Freight and Logistics Symposium offered a thoughtful examination of those questions and explored other topics related to improved mobility in Minnesota, including congestion, regulation, labor shortages, and the value of all freight modes to the state’s economy.

In the symposium’s first presentation, speaker Chuck Clowdis focused on the power of freight flow data in attracting industry to a location and ways to use data in making a compelling case for businesses to invest. As managing director of transportation with IHS Markit’s economics and country risk sector, Clowdis helps connect organizations, public or private, to data that maximizes their opportunities for success—whether that involves finding the optimal location for facilities, better leveraging supply chains, identifying future prospects, or attracting businesses. 

“If you are Image of old CTS fileCTS has been covering events on freight and logistics issues for 20 years. wanting to attract investors, if you are wanting to attract that person who wants to put a plant or needs to put a plant in the Upper Midwest to your county or city in Minnesota, then you need reliable data,” Clowdis said.

The second session, a panel Q&A, examined the advantages, disadvantages, and opportunities related to moving freight from the perspective of Minnesota-based organizations. Participants included moderator Justin Johnson of Bay and Bay Transportation, Bruce Abbe of the Midwest Shippers Association, Jim Carver of Land O’Lakes, Patrick Murray of Cambria Company, and George Schember of Cargill.

Minnesota offers many advantages, Schember said, though the state does need to do better in attracting greater diversity in talent to the industry.

“It’s wonderful doing business in Minnesota,” he said. “We have laws. We have labor talent. We have trustworthy partners. We have data and information-exchange systems so that we can actually run our businesses. We have infrastructure that is competitive on a global scale. We’re a long way from a lot of markets, but we can get there in a fairly efficient manner.”

Jason Craig, director of government affairs for C.H. Robinson, and Margaret Donahoe, executive director of the Minnesota Transportation Alliance, concluded the symposium with insights into the changing federal and state political landscape due to last year’s elections.

According to Craig, infrastructure investment is important to trucking and will be a topic for discussion at the federal level. “This was a big campaign promise,” Craig said. “But I have some healthy skepticism about an infrastructure bill at the federal level.”

For Minnesota, Donahoe emphasized the importance of a united front among freight community stakeholders when approaching legislation. “If we can get everybody working together to really push legislators to increase the investments to improve the strength of the roads and bridges, we could have a real win-win for everybody,” she said. 

The symposium was sponsored by CTS in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Minnesota Freight Advisory Committee, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, the Metropolitan Council, and the Transportation Club of Minneapolis and St. Paul. A proceedings summarizing the symposium is available on the event web page.

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