U.S Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood detailed how airfreight will help achieve President Barack Obama’s goal of doubling imports during the keynote address he presented at TIACA’s 26th International Air Cargo Forum and Exposition in Atlanta. In his speech, LaHood also reinforced airfreight’s importance to the U.S. economy.
President Obama set the goal in 2010, LaHood said, and achieving it will depend on a “thriving air cargo industry to help America’s leading industries move their products to market quickly and efficiently.” Airfreight is such a big business in the U.S. that it accounts for 31 percent of the total value of U.S. exports, LaHood added.
Ensuring that the supply chain isn’t held up by kinks in the system requires monetary investments, however. During his keynote address, LaHood cited the success of the DOT’s Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant program, which bestowed $953 million on 50 freight-related projects in the U.S. over four rounds.
“These TIGER freight-related projects will help speed delivery of products from factories, farms and business to customers across the United States and around the world,” LaHood told ACF attendees. “Now, improving freight movement also means listening to the people who count on freight — the freight and logistics industry, the states, businesses and consumers.”
LaHood pointed to the new Freight Policy Council — which he calls “a high-level and multimodal internal” body — as a response to this need. The council, which held its first public meeting in September, will be instrumental in meeting President Obama’s export goal, LaHood said.
MAP-21 is another key pillar in the strategy, he asserted during the keynote address. The new transportation bill, which was signed into law this summer, “does a number of good things for freight,” LaHood said. “For one, it calls on us to work with the states to plan our freight investments more systematically, so that we can achieve our national goals.” The financial grants provided in MAP-21 will also enable renovations to the nation’s intermodal freight network, he added.
And what’s good for cargo is good for the U.S. economy, LaHood reiterated throughout his speech. “A strong air cargo industry expands international trade and contributes to job creation and prosperity at home,” he said.