At Ga. Logistics Summit, An Industry Seeks Younger Workers | WABE 90.1 FM

At Ga. Logistics Summit, An Industry Seeks Younger Workers

May 17, 2017

About 2,000 people in the transportation industry are at the Georgia World Congress Center this week for the Georgia Logistics Summit.

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In Georgia, logistics is a big industry, led by United Parcel Service, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the Norfolk Southern Railway. The state also is a route along major trucking corridors.

The Port of Savannah is poised to rapidly increase service to an arc of inland markets, from Atlanta to Memphis, to St. Louis, Chicago and the Ohio Valley.
Credit Courtesy of the Georgia Ports Authority

However, the industry has a problem: an aging workforce.

Look at a map of the United States and put your finger on Cleveland, Ohio. Move your finger south, and you'll hit Savannah almost in a straight line. 

"We’re extremely far westward for an East Coast port," said Chris Logan, senior director of trade development for the Georgia Ports Authority. "So that allows both trucking and rail to be utilized highly efficiently to service inland locations."

Logistics is a booming industry. The ports at Savannah and Brunswick are expanding to allow massive ships to pass through.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Center of Innovation for Logistics estimates businesses move about $900 billion worth of goods through the state.

At the Georgia Logistics Summit, 42 percent of attendees who participated in an instant poll said their company increased wages by more than $1 an hour to attract talent.
Credit Tasnim Shamma / WABE

In addition to location, Logan said the state’s infrastructure “continues to get better.”

“Gov. Deal plans to spend over a billion dollars over the next decade in enhancing roadways,” Logan said. “So Georgia leads the way in road and rail infrastructure without question."

But there's a severe labor shortage that's only going to get worse. At the Georgia Logistics Summit's opening session, 72 percent of attendees who participated in a poll said their company was experiencing a labor shortage.

State data shows 9,500 logistics jobs need to be filled each year. Companies in Georgia have had to increase wages and are offering more paid internships to address the labor shortage and attract younger workers. 

Kennesaw State University systems engineering Professor Christina Scherrer, who teaches business logistics, said it's hard to find those workers.

"I think a lot of students, when they hear about logistics, they think truck driver," she said. 

The Port of Savannah is poised to rapidly increase service to an arc of inland markets. Key to expanding rail service is a $128 million project linking the Port of Savannah's Garden City Terminal’s two rail yards.
Credit Courtesy of the Georgia Ports Authority

But there are also industrial engineers, software programmers, dock workers and air cargo supervisors in the logistics industry. Scherrer said those career options are why she takes her college students on field trips.

She also said it wouldn't hurt if the industry did a better job of marketing.  

"We need to think about trucks on the road and product-moving not as traffic, but as commerce,” Scherrer said. “We all want to purchase these products and they need to get to us."