Bio-Logistics or Bio-Logistics

We talk a lot in Memphis about the concept of building leadership in bio-logistics. It is something we need to be doing. It is something that builds from our business heritage in Memphis and the mid-south. And yet, I don’t believe we are all talking about the same thing – and the differences in our vision and point of reference will make a very big difference in where we end up.


There is no disputing that Memphis is a center for global logistics. The international leadership of FedEx has resulted in great benefits to all of us, and will continue to do so for many years to come. FedEx and Memphis International Airport recently signed a new 30-year lease for the WorldHub and other operations. This new lease agreement runs through Dec. 31, 2036, with optional extensions through 2058.

This is the kind of business leadership that gives us an outstanding foundation for Bio-Logistics. That is, we have the ability in Memphis to ensure smooth clearance of packages and materials; we have excellent customs operations; we have the infrastructure for the important interaction between barge, rail, road and air; and we have the warehousing, storage levels (cold, secure, etc.) to meet differing needs of differing types of products. We need to continue to invest in this Bio-Logistics capability, especially such things as increased use of RFID tracking, speed of turnaround and customer security. I would argue, however, that this type of Bio-Logistics is the easy part, and as a result the easiest to duplicate in other areas. Just look at the growth in the Indianapolis and Louisville hubs for examples.

The second form of Bio-Logistics places the emphasis on the Bio. We also have a strong heritage in this area. Pediatric oncology, infectious disease research, orthopedic surgery and devices, clinical development and chemical manufacturing are all areas in which we have demonstrated experience and, at times, brilliance. This also is the area that is in the most need of investment in Memphis if we are to become Bio-Logistics leaders for the long-term.

We are moving swiftly into a world of personalized medicine, one in which speed, security, tracking and the biology behind the treatment are each equally important. Here technologies such as RFID, cold chain logistics, warehousing, packaging and even GPS to track critical shipments are critical components of the solution. In the Bio-Logistics leadership future, there will be airports surrounded with every stage of bioscience operations. The roads leading to the logistical airport centers will be lined with research laboratories, specialized customs brokers, temperature-regulated storage facilities, tissue banks, medical operations, processing facilities, data warehouse and genomics centers, and drug manufacturers – all involved in the creation and distribution of personalized medicines and materials that are time and distribution sensitive.

All of us in Memphis will benefit from investment in Bio-Logistics and our success. But our success will only come if the emphasis and the investment (infrastructure, education, and entrepreneurship) are on the Bio and the Logistics. If not, we may just become the refueling stop for other people’s science.

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