With a rising flood of imports clogging already busy ports, companies are building ever-larger distribution facilities in more out-of-the-way places. Inland cities like Columbus, Ohio, and Memphis, Tenn., are winning new distribution centers because of their lower costs and convenient rail links. On the coasts, secondary ports like Hampton Roads, Va., and Tacoma, Wash., have seen traffic grow by more than 40% in the past four years.

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