BOLINGBROOK – John Greuling asked the golden question during Tuesday’s Global Logistics Summit in Bolingbrook.
“One of the things we at the center are big supporters of is making sure there’s adequate investment in the infrastructure to provide transportation services. … What are some challenges you see?” said Greuling, president and CEO of the Will County Center for Economic Development
Ken Miller, vice president of operations with the Chicago-based trucking and transportation company J.B. Hunt Transport Services, had an answer.
“The infrastructure of our highway system … needs a lot of work, when you think about just the size of the highways, the traffic. It’s very hard for us to move freight [during certain periods of the day],” Miller said.
The summit, along with the panel discussion on transportation challenges, included a number of presentations from experts on transportation, employment opportunities for people with disabilities and future eCommerce opportunities.
Miller said it’s going to take a lot of money to bring Illinois roads up to par. And, to answer Greuling’s next question about how road improvements should be funded, Miller said the burden should not land solely on trucking companies.
“What always comes back to the trucker is … ‘Well, let’s raise the fuel tax,’ ” Miller said. “The trucking companies don’t want to fund it all. We’ll pay our fair share, but we have to find a way so that everyone that’s using the supply chain pays their fair share.”
Transportation, along with a lack of funding, remains one of the area’s biggest challenges as Will County grows into its role as a major player in the national and global marketplace. The growing traffic congestion, in part, is what’s pushing Greuling to form a countywide freight council.
Jeff Turner, executive vice president for the south and west regions of Duke Realty, said when searching for headquarters, eCommerce companies are looking for “good transportation, ready labor, cheap land and not a lot of red tape.”
But they also need the space to store inventory.
“When there’s population increases and the economy gets good and people are buying things in store and online, those inventories rise. And when those inventories rise, you got to have those warehouses to house them,” Turner said.
Greuling said that’s good news for Will County – which has expanded its industrial space from 55 million square feet to 140 million square feet over the past 12 years.