The cargo market at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is getting hotter, even as one project is getting “cooler.” 

Earlier this month, Bristol Group, Inc. announced that it will build a 261,000-square-foot climate-controlled cargo facility on nearly 17 acres at PHL. The Cool Port will offer cooler and freezer temperatures to store cargo, emphasizing high-growth sectors such as pharmaceuticals, life sciences, perishable food, and specialized electronics. 

“Having a state-of-the-art cold storage facility at PHL will make our airport the premier cargo airport in the eastern United States, given our location adjacent to I-95 and close proximity to the Port of Philadelphia,” said Atif Saeed, CEO of the City of Philadelphia Department of Aviation, which oversees the airport. “The addition of this facility stands to benefit the Greater Philadelphia region in many ways, from the billions of dollars generated by cold storage cargo and pharmaceutical business to the hundreds of jobs created by the construction and operation of the building.”  

The Cool Port also underscores some key facets of the Greater Philadelphia economy. One is the diversity and interconnectedness of so many companies and the opportunities that this affords. 

Another is the impact of the airport on the region. In 2023 through July, 15.9 million passengers came through PHL, up 14.5% from the same period a year earlier when the number was 13.9 million. 

The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia (the Chamber) will host an in-person State of Aviation: Developments & Opportunities event on October 10, 2023. Non-members may use code AVIATION to attend at member pricing. 

In recent years, PHL has targeted cargo as a growth business. A 2017 report suggested that PHL was falling behind other airports when it came to cargo activity, so the airport embarked on an aggressive cargo expansion strategy aimed at increasing capacity. 

Since then, PHL has acquired 135 acres for cargo activity and won approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to develop cargo facilities and expand the airfield. PHL, which has invested $90 million so far, hopes to increase cargo operations by adding one million square feet of space and creating 28,000 cargo-related jobs.

Philadelphia is anxious to capture a greater slice of the cold-storage market, which is expected to more than double to $18.6 billion by 2027 from $7 billion in 2019, according to Emergen Research, a consulting company. 

The PHL Cool Port facility also shows the importance of location in attracting interstate commerce.

“With its location abutting Interstate-95, this state-of-the-art facility is strategically positioned to service the entire Mid-Atlantic and Northeast region, which is one of the most densely populated areas in the country,” said Dave Williams, Managing Director of Bristol Group, Inc., which is based in San Francisco. “The service area is severely underserved with respect to the availability of modern cold chain logistics warehouse space for both operators and customers.”  

“We see this as an important investment in the infrastructure of the global pathway of goods that will increase the throughput capacity and the lifespan of perishable goods traveling throughout the region. We’re also excited about the positive economic impact this project will have on the surrounding Philadelphia area and look forward to continuing to work with PHL to support their growth objectives,” Williams continued.

The Cool Port, which can accommodate single- or multi-tenant occupancy, is expected to be completed by November 2025.

You can hear more from Atif Saeed and other regional leaders about extensive development plans at PHL and the Northeast Philadelphia Airport (PNE) at the Chamber’s in-person State of Aviation: Developments & Opportunities event on Tuesday, October 10, 2023. Non-members may use code AVIATION to attend at member pricing. 

For more stories about companies and developments that are driving the economy in the Greater Philadelphia region or for more information about locating or expanding here, visit the Select Greater Philadelphia website.