This has emerged from Pim Warffemius’s doctoral research on the clustering of distribution centres around Schiphol airport. He states that one third of the businesses are “locked in”: they would actually like to move, but cannot get away. Warffemius will defend his dissertation at Erasmus University Rotterdam on Thursday 27 September 2007.
Schiphol airport is an extremely major player when it comes to business locations for European distribution centres. Many internationally operating logistics companies have their European distribution network set up according to the concept of central European distribution. About half of these distribution centres are actually located in the Netherlands: no less than 20% of them in the Schiphol region. There is limited space around Schiphol available for business locations, however. The government has specially zoned this area for airport -related activities.
The traditional assumption is that distribution businesses are attracted by the airport’s unique selling points: the number of (international) flight destinations, flight frequencies and other typical airport characteristics. Warffemius’s doctoral research however indicates that 40% of the distribution centres around Schiphol are not airport-related. Not the typical airport characteristics, but the presence of a business cluster actually provides the decisive advantages for businesses. Once these “agglomeration advantages” are there, a self-reinforcing growth process can occur. This makes it however especially difficult to predict the effects of the proposed location policy.
The research also shows that 30% of the distribution centres around Schiphol are “locked in” with regard to business location. Partly due to increasing obstructions on the roads and in the air and high rents, these businesses would actually prefer to move, but they have a hard time going ahead with a move because of the investments they have made. There is then no longer a case of a dynamic situation.
Warffemius talks of quasi-irreversible effects: if the congestion in the air around Schiphol increases, distribution centres will easily switch over to transporting air cargo by road. Increasing congestion on the roads however rarely leads to more use of air transport. Since it is not the typical airport characteristics but rather the agglomeration advantages of the larger Schiphol region that form the most important location factors, business parks for all sorts of distribution centres can also be easily developed elsewhere in the region. Warffemius says this can provide part of a solution.
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