There’s a booming area in North Texas that many people may not know about called the Dallas Inland Port. There is no water in this port. It is linked by railroad tracks to ports in Houston and California. It is already a source of thousands of jobs and will be even more so in the near future.
The Dallas Inland Port includes portions of the cities of Dallas and Lancaster, and all of Hutchins, Wilmer and Ferris in portions of Dallas and Ellis County.
The City of Hutchins is one place in that actually lost population when the rest of North Texas was booming between 1970 and the year 2000. Hutchins is booming now, with all sorts of new commerce rolling through the Inland Port on trains and trucks.
Hutchins Economic Development Director Guy Brown recalls the years when he could not get anyone interested in his town. His job is very different now.
"We would only get maybe one or two legitimate projects looking at us a year. Now we probably get that many a month," Brown said. "It's taken us 20 years to become an overnight success."
Around 12 years ago, FedEx discovered the convenient location of Hutchins, along Interstate 45 near Interstate 20. Then the Union Pacific Railroad built a terminal where containers coming to the Inland Port by rail are transferred to trucks. Warehouses sprang up all around. UP added more tracks to serve surrounding land in Mike Rader’s Prime Point development.
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"We've got 3,000 acres that's part of about 60,000 acres of developable land in south Dallas County," Rader said.
Recent developments in Prime Point include a firm called Biagi that receives Mexican beer for distribution around the US. Across the road, a Belgian Company called Katoen Natie plans ten more warehouse buildings like the one that will soon open along railroad tracks. The firm will pack U.S. plastics for shipment in containers to China that usually return empty. The plastic will be used to make other products in China.
"And as we develop this we’re going to create billions of dollars of investment from multiple companies and thousands of jobs," Rader said.
A better vision of what the Inland Port may someday become already exists in far North Fort Worth at the giant AllianceTexas development.
AllianceTexas now includes parts of four cities in two counties and three school districts. It is a project of Ross Perot Junior’s Hillwood Development Company, but today many other players are building there, too.
A giant Facebook Data Center is one of the latest things to arrive at Alliance and Facebook is already expanding there.
Tony Crème is a Hillwood Senior Vice President.
"We've had about a $70 billion economic impact on the region over the last 3 decades," Crème said.
Alliance warehouse, office, retail and restaurant development now extends all along Interstate 35W and home construction is booming in the area too with all the new jobs.
It started with an airport 30 years ago.
"Hillwood partnered with the City of Fort Worth and the FAA. That's where the name Alliance came from. It was an Alliance between those three groups," Crème said.
Alliance also has an intermodal rail terminal, this one for Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad.
"It's really evolved from an industrial airport to a world class master planned community," Crème said.
Alliance is years ahead with around 50,000 jobs compared with an estimated 17,000 jobs so far at the Dallas Inland Port.
Back in Dallas County, the Lancaster Airport is at the edge of the Dallas Inland Port, but large scale cargo and corporate aviation expansion is not expected for now at the Lancaster Airport.
The focus is surface transportation at the Dallas Inland Port in the race for North Texas jobs.
"We see ourselves as a counter balance to Alliance and we think that we complement each other and there’s enough room for both of us," Brown said.
The Inland port people say the choice of development locations depends largely on which railroad shippers use most.
"Every prospect that's coming to the Metroplex, they're giving us a chance to look at now," Rader said.
A large new apartment complex was recently constructed in Hutchins. More new housing is planned. Star Transit agency recently began service linking with DART Rail to help workers reach jobs at the Inland Port. Big new roads are under construction to open more land for development as part of the area's Vision for 2020 and beyond.