By Hannah Grune, CTS Program Coordinator
This year’s Freight and Logistics Symposium had a new name and a new strategy: rather than learning about public and private initiatives to strengthen our freight transportation system, attendees provided much of the material and analysis themselves. On December 5, CTS hosted the 2014 Minnesota Statewide Freight Summit in cooperation with MnDOT’s Office of Freight, Rail, and Waterways.
The Freight Summit united freight leaders from private-sector organizations involved in logistics and transportation, government officials and staff, and representatives from nonprofit organizations and academic institutions to share ideas and develop an Action Agenda for the new Minnesota Statewide Freight System Plan. MnDOT is currently working with a consultant team to develop the new plan, which will ultimately provide guidelines for project development, investment, and operational decisions with freight in Minnesota. The Action Agenda component will provide markers and goals to support an efficient and competitive freight transportation network in Minnesota.
Before setting to work on the Action Agenda, attendees heard a number of presentations to inspire critical thinking about freight and its role in Minnesota:
- MnDOT Commissioner Charles Zelle welcomed attendees to the event and stressed his appreciation for their work on the Freight Plan. Zelle noted that Freight Plan is not just about freight transfer in Minnesota—rather, “it’s about economic resurgence.”
- Caitlin Rayman, director of freight management and operations at the Federal Highway Administration, gave background on freight activities, plans, and requirements at the national level since the passage of MAP-21.
- Bill Goins, worldwide account manager with FedEx, introduced keynote speaker Jeffrey Rainey from GREATER MSP. Rainey gave a broad narrative of the economic successes and challenges facing the Minneapolis–St. Paul region. Ultimately, Rainey stressed the importance of spreading the word about the region’s accomplishments and increasing the workforce to meet future demands. Freight, he noted, is crucial for Minnesota’s growing economic future.
- Paula Dowell of Cambridge Systematics Inc. provided an overview of freight in Minnesota and why it is important as a major employment industry with significant growth potential for the state. Topics such as Minnesota’s connections to domestic and international markets and potential “cargo-oriented development” energized attendees for discussion.
Following the presentations, attendees broke into small groups to respond to discussion questions focused on five topics: partnerships, strategic freight network, supply chains, choke points, and economy and competition. Each group generated priority needs and suggestions for successful freight planning that MnDOT and its consulting team will use as they craft the Action Agenda component of the Minnesota Statewide Freight Plan.
For more information about the Statewide Freight System Plan, and to provide your own feedback via a short survey, please visit the MnDOT website.