In 2022, 196.7 million U.S. consumers shopped in-store and online between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, up 17 million from the year prior, according to the National Retail Federation. With merchants now offering deals throughout the holiday season rather than solely banking on Black Friday, it comes down to one major question: How can the U.S. support continued demand for holiday gifts nationwide? New Jersey is a key part of the answer.
Ports as a logistical advantage
While there are many ways to get materials in and out of various regions within the U.S., ports remain the quickest and most cost-efficient way to import goods. The U.S. has approximately 360 ports that move 914 million tons of goods each year, and the Port of New York & New Jersey is the second-largest in the country. In 2022, the Port of New York & New Jersey moved approximately $271 billion worth of goods — more than 9.493 million 20-foot equivalent units, or TEUs. Of those imports, only 661,174 TEUs’ worth, went to New Jersey, meaning other states, including New York, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, Connecticut, Florida and Texas, were the end destinations for the materials and goods. New Jersey’s port is often the critical first contact with the continental U.S., which leverages the state’s access to multiple modes of transportation, to distribute goods to their final destinations.
Intermodal connectivity supports distribution
Once goods pass through U.S. ports, they are transferred to one of three major means for distribution: air, rail or car/truck. In New Jersey, air cargo may be shipped through four major airports: John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, La Guardia Airport or Stewart International Airport. These four airports combined are ranked the busiest regional airport system in the U.S. In September 2023, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey estimated that more than 83,000 short tons of cargo were shipped domestically from New York/New Jersey airports, up 6% from last year. FedEx and UPS ranked top in the region with 25% of the region’s total traffic, including airline passengers.
According to the Association of American Railroads, freight railroads account for roughly 40% of U.S. long-distance freight volume (measured by ton-miles) — more than any other mode of transportation. 107 million people, or one-third of the U.S. population, are within a day’s drive of New Jersey. Located in the middle of the Boston-New York City-Washington, D.C., corridor, New Jersey offers unprecedented access to one of the world’s most concentrated and affluent markets, with 38 million consumers and $3.75 trillion in economic output. New Jersey also boasts the nation’s highest railroad density with 3 Class I freight railroads. If goods are loaded onto trucks for shipment, they can take over 2,900 miles of interstates and highways to their final destination, including Interstate 78, which sees more than 4 million trucks annually.
New Jersey’s strategic location and robust infrastructure are clear advantages. Many major e-commerce companies have recognized New Jersey’s logistical advantages, with companies such as Wayfair, the RealReal and Rent the Runway establishing and expanding distribution capabilities in the Garden State in recent years.
Workforce matters most
In 2022, about 913,400 people were working in the trade, transportation and utilities industry in New Jersey — the most of any industry. This strong workforce supports the state’s ability to handle the large number of goods that move through the state, through the Port of New York & New Jersey and via rail, air and truck transport. It’s seeing a new resurgence of the manufacturing industry following the pandemic supply chain issues, as many companies have decided to bring their manufacturing facilities back to the U.S., according to Michelle Comerford, project director at New Jersey-based site selection firm Biggins Lacy Shapiro & Co.
Coastal locations — specifically the East Coast — are a good starting point for reshored manufacturing facilities, as they offer access to talent, logistics hubs and ports. New Jersey, in particular, is home to more than 236,000 advanced manufacturing workers and support from 150-plus higher education institutions. The state has allocated $50 million in funds to boost the manufacturing industry, adding more than 5,000 jobs since 2018. This investment is not only a benefit to existing manufacturers, but an incentive for aspiring entrepreneurs to join the industry.
Model for success
There are many ways that goods make their way from ports to consumers, and, chances are, your holiday gifts went through New Jersey before making it to their final destination. Supported by a world-class workforce, the state’s logistical industry is set to continue its growth in logistics/transportation and manufacturing industries. With the holidays right around the corner, New Jersey promises to be a thriving hub for businesses and entrepreneurs, offering access to talent, logistics and promising economic growth.
Kathleen Coviello is the chief economic transformation officer at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.