Infrastructure change, development incentives and better access to the airport are among the improvements outlined in the JFK Air Cargo Study, commissioned by the New York City Economic Development Council and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.
The report also strives to create a regional cargo policy, using this new strategy with air cargo as a way to bring in more industrial businesses to the area.
The report presents 52 recommendations to help JFK improve as a domestic leader in the air cargo industry, stemming its 600,000-ton decline in cargo activity over the past decade. This loss of activity has lead to heavy employment casualties; analysts have pegged 35 jobs to every 1,000 tons of cargo.
JFK is the seventh largest cargo airport in the nation, seeing 1.3 million tons of cargo in 2010 and employing 15,000 cargo-related workers, but it has fallen from No. 3 on the list at the start of the 2000s. The report found that JFK and city officials need to take significant action to regain its previous stature.
Before any more significant changes take place, the airport needs to be presented as a cargo destination, and the port authority has to play a large role in marketing air freight. Miami’s airport has successfully been marketed as the gateway for Latin America, just as Los Angeles is the entry point from Asia. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has to highlight JFK as a gateway, convincing shippers to route their goods through the airport.
The report noted JFK used to be the pathway to Europe, but to reestablish this standing, the airport needs to reposition itself in the industry, which has vastly expanded. Numerous competing airports have asserted themselves in the past decade, and international cargo routes have changed.
To accomplish this, the port authority needs to develop a “vision of the ‘new’ JFK cargo environment that reflects, and is consistent with, the city’s economic development goals and initiatives and the port authority’s role to manage a regional system that includes three commercial airports," analysts wrote in the report.
The issue can’t be solved by marketing alone, however. The cost of doing business at the airport is higher than in other regional alternatives. Not a lot can be done here, but the port authority could have a more structured management approach with financial goals, which would alleviate the cost burden on shippers. Also, JFK’s perceived value could increase by creating a strong value-added partnership with the city. Operating synergies will make the airport stand out globally. The report suggested adjustments to rates, new leasing terms, better operating efficiencies and adding financial incentives.
Private investment needs to be made attractive, analysts wrote. The port authority could help JFK by revising leasing and other practices to encourage third-party development and public-private partnerships.
A single change in one oft-maligned rule could also greatly benefit the airport. Congested roadways and a 53-foot trailer restriction drive cargo to other gateways where they can then be trucked at the beginning or the tail end of their journey. Eliminating the trucking restriction on short moves could free up the airport to offer a service that could save time and money.
According to the NYCEDC, officials are already following through on some of these recommendations. A cargo facility, a truck center and a $32 million animal-handling development are all in the works.
The lengthy report is a first step in what's likely to be a very long process. But the port authority and the commission are dedicated to bringing improvements to the airport, fueling job and business growth in the region, commented the port authority’s Pat Foye.
"The regional air cargo industry has few rivals as an engine for our economy, which is why it is so important to nurture and expand this vital business,'' he said in a statement. "Working with our industry partners will create a platform for expansion of the cargo industry in New York City and the creation of additional jobs." - Jon Ross