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Warehouse Sprawl: Plan Now or Suffer the Consequences

March 15th, 2021 by

Warehousing is big business in New Jersey

The movement and storage of stuff is big business in New Jersey, thanks mainly to the presence of the Port of New York and New Jersey, which is now the second-busiest port in the country. This translates to a lot of economic activity; nearly one of every eight employed New Jerseyans (12.2% of all employees) is employed in the wholesale trade (NAICS code 42) or transportation and warehousing (NAICS code 48) sectors of the economy, those that are devoted primarily to the storage and distribution of goods. This is the highest share among the 50 states. These sectors together are responsible for 15.7% of New Jersey’s total payroll, also the highest in the country (and more than half again as big as the national average of 10.0%). And traffic at the port is growing, thanks to shifting international trade patterns that are resulting in more goods coming into the United States across the Atlantic Ocean. All of this stuff coming into New Jersey from other countries has to be distributed to its final customers all over the eastern half of the country and beyond, and that means lots of warehouse space in which to store it and sort it after it is taken off the ship.

Superimposed over shifting patterns of international trade is the growth in online shopping, which is fueling greater demand for warehousing all over the country. Amazon, the e-commerce giant, is now New Jersey’s largest employer, adding nearly 7,000 new jobs in 2020 alone and employing 40,000 people in the state.

Warehousing uses a lot of land

Warehousing is a land-hungry business; storing all that stuff takes up a lot of acreage. Luckily in New Jersey, most of the new warehouse development has taken place on already-developed land that was previously used for something else. But just across the Delaware River along I-78, the Lehigh Valley in eastern Pennsylvania provides a warning of what could happen in New Jersey if the goods movement industry starts to run low on redevelopment areas to reuse; since 1997, Lehigh and Northampton counties have lost about 25% of their farmland. The warehouse development that has been steadily spreading south into farm fields along the New Jersey Turnpike might be a preview of things to come if we fail to plan for the growth in the movement and storage of stuff.

Plan now before it’s too late

See the full report for details about where warehouse growth has been most visible in New Jersey, why a regional perspective is needed, and how some of the same techniques for heading off residential sprawl could also work for warehousing.

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