Construction Begins on $27 Million Cargo Facility at Birmingham Airport for Flights to, from Germany

June 7, 2023
The cargo facility will be used by global logistics company Kuehne+Nagel, which launched transatlantic freighter flights to the airport in April.

The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday cleared some final hurdles for the construction of a new $27 million cargo facility at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport that will handle shipping cargo to and from Germany.

The council approved vacating right of way at 1910 50th St. North to consolidate property for a new cargo facility at the airport.

Marcelo Lima, vice president of planning and development at the Birmingham Airport Authority, who spoke to the council, said construction is underway following a groundbreaking held May 24 for the new cargo facility.

The cargo facility will be used by global logistics company Kuehne+Nagel, which launched transatlantic freighter flights to the airport in April.

“This has been a long-term goal of the airport and to see it all coming together is a huge win for our community,” said Darlene Wilson, chair of the Birmingham Airport Authority.

Wilson said that the partnership Kuehne+Nagel is poised to transform Birmingham into a long-term gateway to and from the Southeastern United States.

“We have the infrastructure in place,” Wilson said. “We have the best partners in the business. And we have the determination to continue building on what we established earlier this year.”

On April 2, Kuehne+Nagel started conducting flights twice a week on Boeing 747-8F jets between Stuttgart Airport in Germany and Birmingham. The Swiss logistics company says it will utilize the airport as a gateway for cargo bound for the southeast U.S.

Birmingham Airport Authority will build and own the facility and lease it to Kuehne+Nagel.

Kuehne+Nagel, which operates in nearly 100 countries, is now using a temporary hangar at Birmingham, but plans to move into the new facility when it opens in the spring of 2024. Construction is expected to last about 10 months.

The flights are geared toward the automotive, aerospace and pharmaceutical industries. Mercedes-Benz, which manufactures automobiles and lithium-ion batteries in Alabama, is expected to benefit from improvements in supply chain efficiency.

Currently shipments are processed at an airfield hangar owned by Kaiser Aircraft Industries, with flights operated by contract carriers such as Atlas Air and Cargolux.

The new cargo building now under construction will be 53,000 square feet with 48,500 feet of warehouse space, 17 bays in the loading docks, and five airside bay doors, four roll-up doors with two for airside loading and two for ground loading, office space with conference rooms, restrooms and breakrooms, a mezzanine area over office space.

In 2022, there were 1,564 air cargo operations at Birmingham moving 21 metric tons of goods into the region. That has increased substantially since April with the twice weekly international cargo flights from Germany.

“This is great news for businesses in our region that rely on air cargo arriving in an efficient and timely manner,” said Wilson.

The Birmingham Airport Authority said its location is ideal for building additional cargo business due to its central location and the fact that getting cargo out to customers will not be slowed by the congested conditions that exist at large hub airports.

The new cargo facility mirrors what is happening in some other secondary markets across the country, the Birmingham Airport Authority said, as smaller airports that have the infrastructure in place and the warehousing capacity are able to get cargo out to customers faster, cheaper and on a more predictable schedule.

“Our vision is to make Birmingham into a long-term gateway to and from the Southeastern corridor of the U.S. and we’re pleased to be able to provide customers with alternative options that support their supply chain needs,” said Greg Martin, senior vice president of air logistics at Switzerland-based K+N.

The Birmingham Airport Authority’s deal with Kuehne+Nagel is part of a larger trend of freight forwarders increasingly directing international cargo away from congested U.S. hubs to secondary airports.

“This partnership with Kuehne+Nagel represents a new era of business development at the airport and a realization of our long-term vision of expanding air cargo activity and making Birmingham and central Alabama more prominent in the southeastern corridor,” Wilson said.

Kuehne+Nagel will subcontract warehouse operations management to ground handler Alliance Ground International.

The planned new cargo facility builds on the momentum of new construction at the airport with Texas-based Million Air announcing earlier this year it will invest a minimum of $32 million in Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, with operations to begin June 1 on the airport’s eastside facilities.

Signing a lease as a Fixed Base Operator, Million Air will add a total of 94,000-square-feet in new development at the airport.

See also: Aviation business investing $32 million in Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport

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