Birmingham airport breaks ground on Kuehne+Nagel cargo facility


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Jul 30, 2023

Birmingham airport breaks ground on Kuehne+Nagel cargo facility

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Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM) in Alabama has begun construction of its first dedicated terminal for general cargo, part of a new focus on attracting cargo business that already includes new chartered freighter flights from Germany.

The Birmingham Airport Authority last week broke ground on the $27 million facility, which will serve as the Southeast air hub for Kuehne+Nagel (CXE: KNIN). The global logistics powerhouse in April launched twice weekly flights from Stuttgart, Germany, to support demand from companies in the automotive, aerospace and pharmaceutical industries, including Mercedes-Benz. It is temporarily operating out of an existing hangar under a temporary lease agreement with another airport tenant.

Atlas Air and Cargolux are flying Boeing 747 cargo jets, which return via Chicago O’Hare airport, on Kuehne+Nagel's behalf. Alliance Ground International is providing the ramp services and cargo processing.

K+N will move into the new cargo facility once it is completed next spring, the airport authority said in a news release Wednesday marking the groundbreaking. The building has 48,500 square feet of warehouse space plus administrative offices, 17 dock doors for trucks and five airside bays.

The new cargo operation puts BHM on the map as a Southeastern gateway, alongside Huntsville airport in northern Alabama and Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in South Carolina. Huntsville airport pioneered the concept in the United States of second-tier airports becoming destinations for scheduled all-cargo airlines by offering faster cargo turnarounds at a much lower cost than at crowded metropolitan airports.

K+N rival DSV recently established its own private air hub at lesser-known Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Arizona to cater to semiconductor and electric battery manufacturers. Airports in the Los Angeles area require an additional truck leg and nearby Phoenix Sky Harbor airport has a hands-off approach to cargo.

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Birmingham, about 150 miles west of Atlanta, is centrally located in the Southeast's rapidly growing manufacturing belt. Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda and Toyota have assembly plants in Alabama, all supported by a local supplier base. Airbus manufactures aircraft in Mobile, Alabama.

The airport authority is funding the new air cargo facility, which will be leased to K+N for an initial period of six years. Officials originally planned to build an air logistics center this year on a speculative basis because of confidence in market demand, but adjusted the final design after being approached by K+N to establish a gateway at BHM, said spokeswoman Kim Hunt.

FedEx Express, UPS and their feeder airlines move shipments through BHM through a small facility on the far end of the airport.

(Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly transposed letters in Birmingham's airport code.)

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

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