If you automatically correlate the word “port” with images of the coast, docks and ships, it’s time to think again. Landlocked Utah is giving this word new meaning by exploring the development of an inland port. Why? There are several reasons, not the least of which is the state’s high-quality transportation system and infrastructure as well as our established and positive reputation for international and domestic trade.

With a central location in the Western United States, Utah makes an excellent interline switching route for shipments headed throughout the country. In addition to the 1,350 miles of railroad track spanning the state, Union Pacific’s intermodal hub in Salt Lake City can service 250,000 truck, rail and ocean-going containers annually. Not to mention Utah is a one-day-or-less truck drive from almost every major city in the West. Simply put, Utah has a location worth leveraging and vast potential as a trading hub.

The next evolution of the state’s phenomenal track record with trade is the development of an inland port. Leaders have envisioned a site with advanced transportation infrastructure and distribution operations, providing customs clearance and other services akin to traditional coastal ports. As described by Derek Miller, president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah, “increasing global e-commerce creates a high demand for quick and affordable transportation of goods, and Utah—already a competitive hub—is a prime location for innovative trade expansion. An inland port would take our state to the next level, opening doors to the global marketplace and expanding opportunities for sustainable economic growth.”

The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute conducted a preliminary market assessment and found that Salt Lake County meets many of the essential criteria for developing an inland port. After this auspicious finding was confirmed, the Governor convened an Inland Port Committee. The Salt Lake Chamber rallied around this bright opportunity for economic development and Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber, has been an active member of the committee.

Most recently, the Inland Port Committee launched a feasibility study to assess the financial and technical viability of potential port sites. As described in this article, the study will determine how best to execute the development of the port. In addition to the sophisticated analysis of data, the Inland Port Committee is conducting site visits to other dry ports across the United States. In locations ranging from Long Beach to Georgia, this committee is doing a qualitative exploration of existing examples and becoming well acquainted with best practices.

In the Chamber’s Economic Blueprinting process, two working groups–Global Crossroads and Transformative Choices–have highlighted the importance and magnitude of developing the inland port. From the perspective of the Transformative Choices working group, the inland port exemplifies a strategic investment that supports a lucrative future for the state. Investing in infrastructure now will equate to a thriving economy in future decades. The Global Crossroads working group also identified the development of the inland port as a critical stepping stone in Utah’s growth, but their support originates from their vision of Utah as a global competitor and their desire to amplify Utah’s capacity for trade. This development project will build upon Utah’s strengths to sustain the competitive edge of our exporting economy. The Utah Transportation Coalition is also committed to advocating in support of the development of an inland port as a way to boost the state’s economic prosperity and maintain a high quality of life for all Utahns.

The findings of the feasibility study and corresponding recommendations will be presented on October 1, 2017. The Chamber will continue to support the development of the inland port at each step of the process and champion this promising opportunity for business.