Chicago Rockford: gearing up for growth

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Zack Oakley

After a busy 2020 for the cargo department, construction of the 8000 sq m cargo hub is well under way at Chicago Rockford International Airport.

“[The Airport] ended 2020 with the largest year-to-date landed cargo weight in the organisation’s history,” explained Zack Oakley, deputy director of operations and planning, Chicago Rockford International Airport.

“In 2020, cargo numbers grew by more than 15% to 2.7 billion pounds of landed weight at RFD compared to 2.3 billion pounds in 2019. The leading driver of the cargo growth was e-Commerce purchases.

“Cargo growth has continued at a high pace since the 2019 holiday season due to the pandemic in which a rise of purchases online continued throughout the year. That, combined with the cargo flights carrying essential products and PPE to the region, increased the number of cargo flights and new international cargo operations.”

Perfect opportunity

This increase in operations has created the perfect opportunity to grow the cargo infrastructure at the Airport.

“The construction of the 90,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art International Cargo Facility remains on track and plans to open it this summer. Already, 100% of the facility is leased by Emery Air.  This is the first of a three-phased expansion to benefit RFD’s growing cargo operators.

“Construction on an additional 100,000-square-foot building will begin (and likely completed) later this year; 50% of that building is leased.

“RFD also is proactively working on logistics opportunities both inside and outside the airport fence. Real estate is abundant, affordable, and provides airlines and their suppliers and support organisations on-site connections for more efficient impact on the bottom line.”

Bustling cargo operations

Oakley explained the improvements will allow RFD to continue to grow its already bustling cargo operations, allowing more freight forwarders to land at RFD and consider the airport as their regional base.

“RFD has a large land package, much of it unencumbered and free of legacy issues. Additionally, RFD has an on-airport handling company, Emery Air, which also been gearing up and investing heavily in ground handling equipment and staff hiring and training.

“The arrival of new additional air cargo flights will have on-site team that is especially well-trained in handling large freighters and breaking down and building up air cargo.”