Top 10 U.S. Cities for Distribution Centers

Distribution and logistics are critical components of ensuring that your company’s products get where they need to go in an efficient and effective manner. Distribution centers have always been in or near centralized population centers, as those are the areas that have the infrastructure and populations to support robust logistical operations. In addition, cities that have access to large airports and seaports, as well as coastal cities in general, tend to be ideal places for a distribution center. In alphabetical order, here are the top ten best cities for distribution centers in the United States.

1. Atlanta, Georgia

Home to the busiest airport in the world, it’s no wonder Atlanta is making its rise as a transportation hub. Atlanta has the third-fastest growing metro population, which offers a large job pool for companies to choose from. It also boasts a tech-friendly culture with affordable living. Atlanta’s location along with its growing business market makes Atlanta a great option for a distribution center.

2. Chicago, Illinois 

In addition to being the third-largest city in the United States, Chicago has long served as a commercial hub for the country, spanning back as far as the era of Westward Expansion. Chicago also has a large airport, access to numerous interstates and railroads, and water access to the Great Lakes.

3. Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas 

Dallas one of the major commercial hubs of Texas, and provides easy access to the Western states, the Southern states, and Houston (which itself has access to the Gulf of Mexico). The city also experienced the largest population growth from 2016 to 2017.

4. Detroit, Michigan

Detroit boasts a large network of transportation routes and is central to the Midwest. While the city struggled during the financial crisis, it has diversified its market since and many large retailers like Amazon are seeing the potential that Detroit has to offer as a distribution center. The city ranks sixth in size for industrial availability rates.

5. Houston, Texas

As traffic through Port Houston grows, Houston is becoming a more and more popular location for distribution centers. Houston’s growing population and port access has influenced retailers like Ikea, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Ford to set up distribution centers in this city. The widening of the Panama Canal has given the city hope to become a major entry point for cargo to enter the United States.

6. Los Angeles/Long Beach, California 

The Los Angeles/Long Beach area has the dual benefit of being the second-largest metropolitan area in the United States, as well as strategically placed to import and export to the rest of the Pacific Rim.

7. Riverside/San Bernardino, California 

Riverside/San Bernardino is an area that is about 60 miles from Los Angeles. It is a large metropolitan area in its own right, with each county containing a population of over 2 million each. This area benefits from many of the same infrastructure advantages of the Los Angeles/Long Beach area while having significantly less congestion and lower property values (making it less expensive to house large distribution centers there).

8. Central New Jersey

Central New Jersey’s location and infrastructure allow the location to rank as a top location for distribution centers. Its location allows shippers to reach 40% of the U.S. population within a day’s drive. The location ranks ninth in the country for the size of industrial availability rates.

9. Northern New Jersey

Northern New Jersey offers plenty of opportunities for distribution centers. The state’s infrastructure allows for easy travel by sea, air, rail, and road. Port of New York and New Jersey is the largest port on the East Coast, and the third-largest in the U.S. It also offers much more space and affordable living than its neighbor, New York.

10. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Philadelphia’s industrial economy is exploding, with demand for big-box construction exceeding supply in the short term by a significant margin, and 7.6 million square feet currently under construction. As Philadelphia grows to accommodate this economic expansion, it will benefit even more from its location in the heart of the Northeast.

To Sum It All Up

If you’re looking to maximize efficiency in your distribution centers, you need to factor in more than just the location. After all, a poorly organized distribution center in one of these major cities will still struggle to stay lean and excel in quality work.

Learn the key areas to optimize your DC in our eBook below, The ABCs of DCs: A Best Practices Overview. Written by the supply chain management faculty at the University of Tennessee, it unveils the game-changes that can bring your distribution centers into the modern world without skipping a be