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A little over 10 years after Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores planted its flag at Aurora’s I-80 intersection, momentum continues to build on this community’s identity as a transportation logistics hub.

Just last week the president of the Nebraska Trucking Association emphasized that point, noting that Aurora has an ideal location to attract all kinds of transportation-related business and industry (See related story on this week’s Business Page). Larry Johnson is a walking textbook when it comes to all the variables involved with transportation logistics, but he simplified a complex process as he described what many site selection people are focusing on now when deciding where to build or expand their operations.

“The move toward shortening hours of service and creating a more favorable lifestyle for drivers creates opportunities in communities like Aurora,” Johnson told the Aurora Development Corporation board. “We’re seeing a very robust freight market now as the demand for durable goods keeps increasing ... and that becomes a drawing card for other related services.”

That comes as encouraging news as ADC ramps up its efforts to recruit business and industry to a 151-acre parcel just east of Highway 14 near I-80. That site was purchased a few years back with hopes of landing a high-tech data center, though the plan now is to broaden the target list of potential prospects.

Though the concept of hosting a high-dollar data center in our town is exciting, the possibility of seeing distribution centers, 24/7 truck repair shops and other related businesses doesn’t require such a huge stretch of the imagination. In fact that seems like a good fit for Aurora as well as companies that want to be near the I-80 pipeline.

No matter how creative a marketing plan may be, the reality is that the market will decide how good a site this is, and what it is best suited for. In that regard, a short drive up and down the corridor should speak volumes to site selection representatives.

Love’s was the first major player on site and has since purchased more land and expanded its operations. Interstate Batteries, the only locally-owned franchise in the mix, is doing well with its distribution center. Con-Way Freight is as well, having doubled its facility due in part to its prime location. Timpte apparently likes its site, having recently invested heavily in an expansion/remodel. And finally, Fed-Ex Freight is the newest tenant, adding the stamp of site approval from a nationally recognized brand.

Aurora has done a good job of creating a vision for this heavily travelled corridor, then going out and finding companies that match that vision. The chances of building on that vision with good-paying jobs, the kind that can entice families to relocate here as well as give young natives an opportunity to come home, bode well for the future.

Kurt Johnson

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