Capital Region’s Logistics & Distribution Industry Boosted by Vessel Imports
Last year, the Albany, New York metro area increased imports carried by vessels, giving the Capital Region’s burgeoning logistics and distribution industry a boost, according to a Center for Economic Growth (CEG) analysis of U.S. Census Bureau USA Trade Online data.
In 2016, 1.2 billion kilograms, or 1.3 million tons, of imports were unloaded off vessels in the Albany area.  While that amount was up only 0.8 percent from the previous year, it pushed the area’s shipping weight total to its highest level since 2006.
Driving up the Albany area’s annual import shipping weight were cement clinkers, fertilizers, chemical wood pulp and machinery, such as boilers and turbine parts. The total customs value of imports, or the price payable for them when sold for exportation from the United States, totaled $139.5 million. That amount represented a 7.3 percent increase from the previous year and the highest level in nine years.
Fast-Growing Vessel Imports
Over the last five years, vessel import shipping weights at East Coast ports were up 10 percent and vessel customs values were flat.  During the same period, Albany emerged as the 12th fastest-growing area for vessel shipping weight growth out of the 55 East Coast areas for which 2012 and 2016 vessel import data was reported. Albany ranked 17th for vessel import customs value growth over the five-year period.
The increase in imports preceded the Port of Albany’s $50 million expansion, which is scheduled to begin this summer. The four-year project includes, among other things, a 45,000-square-foot warehouse, enhanced heavy lift capabilities and the reconstruction of a 58,000-square-foot warehouse and 840 feet of wharves.
Capital 20.20/Fulfillment Hub
Logistics and distribution is a key growth area for the Capital Region’s economy. As illustrated in the below graphic, the region’s transportation and warehousing workforce as well as the volume of commercial traffic exiting the New York State Thruway at Capital Region tolls (Exits 21-26) are increasing. Additionally, the region’s industrial vacancy rate has fallen to its lowest level in years, partly because of strong demand for warehousing space.
Capital 20.20, the Capital Region’s five-year economic development plan for regionwide prosperity, identifies fulfillment hub expansion as a core initiative for its “Gateway” strategy. Major companies, such as Wal-Mart, Target, Ace Hardware and Price Chopper, already have sizeable distribution centers in the greater Capital Region. Recent months have seen several other companies express interest in establishing fulfillment hubs in the region, including the retailer Dollar General, the paving stone and retaining wall distributor Nicolock the emergency medical distributor American Medical Depot and the online retailer Amazon.
 There are several water ports in the Albany area, most notably the Port of Albany and Port of Coeymans. Due to confidentiality concerns, the Census Bureau does not identify which ports are included in the Albany data, other than saying it may include multiple water ports. The USA Trade Online data is collected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
 East Coast ports include those in states in U.S. Census Bureau-defined New England and Mid- and South Atlantic regions.
For more information, contact CEG Director of Research and Communications James Schlett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t miss these insights into the trends that are shaping the Capital Region’s economy. Sign up for CEG’s e-news.