A backbone of the Madison Region's economy is an integrated transportation network that serves its key industries and corporate community. A prime location in the center of the state, access to major interstates and rail services, and a growing airport served by several major airlines make the region an advantageous logistics and distribution location. Its highway system serves numerous trucking and freight companies based in the eight-county region, with four interstates and major highways connecting to close-by major markets including Milwaukee, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Wausau and Rockford, Ill. “Transportation is one of Madison's key assets, and it's getting even better,” says Craig Thompson, executive director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin. “For example, there are plans for I-39/90 to be redone and expanded from the Illinois line up to Madison, which will really improve that economic gateway leading into the region.” Another major highway project involves the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's multiyear reconstruction effort that will improve Verona Road (US 18/151), which is heavily used in Madison and Fitchburg. Rock Solid Just southeast of Madison near the Wisconsin-Illinois state line is Rock County, where cities including Beloit and Janesville anchor the northern end of the I-39/90 and I-43 corridors, integral parts of the supply chain for a number of major manufacturers. “For firms that rely on shipping by truck, our interstate corridors provide a means to reach 125 cities with populations of 50,000 or greater in seven states and one Canadian province,” says James Otterstein, economic development manager for the Rock County Development Alliance. “Other industrial connections can be accessed via three railroad providers that serve Rock County – Union Pacific Railroad, Wisconsin Southern & Railroad and Canadian Pacific Railway.” The Port of Chicago, which provides access to both the Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River system, is only 85 miles away. Milwaukee is within 100 miles. The region's many logistical advantages have prompted a long list of companies to locate there, including ABC Supply, Ariens, Blain Supply, Cummins, Diamond Foods, Frito-Lay, Hormel, Landair, Save-A-Lot, Seneca Foods and Staples in Rock County. “If a business has a corporate aviation component, they will benefit from the services available at Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport,” Otterstein says. “It is owned and operated by Rock County.” Plenty of Air Space Madison's Dane County Regional Airport provides an annual $600 million economic impact to the region. Four commercial carriers – American Eagle, Delta, Frontier and United – serve the airport, which underwent several upgrades in 2014 and 2015, including a parking garage expansion, control tower instrumentation upgrades and a $5 million taxiway reconstruction to handle larger aircraft. “Not only do we draw passengers from Madison but also from Beloit, La Crosse, Mosinee, Stevens Point, Wausau and even Dubuque, Iowa,” says Bradley Livingston, director of Dane County Regional Airport. The airport offers more than 100 daily flights and nonstops to 12 major cities, accommodating more than 1.6 million passengers a year. Dane County Regional operates FTZ 266, which allows companies to move goods without going through formal customs entry procedures or paying import duties. (An FTZ based in Milwaukee has a service territory that extends into Rock County.) Also in the region is Morey Field in Middleton, a general aviation operation 15 miles from Madison. And it also offers one of the top bus systems in the state for ridership and reliability. The buses are used often by students at the University of Wisconsin and Madison Area Technical College, and Madison Metro officials say increased ridership usage is shown across all demographic sectors. Learn more about transportation in the Madison Region.