Today, transportation and logistics industry leaders joined government and higher education officials for lunch at Freight Alley, the community and event space in FreightWaves’ new headquarters on Market Street in Chattanooga.
Companies represented included Arrive Logistics, Axle Logistics, Bellhops, C. H. Robinson, Covenant Transport, Dynamo, EIT Logistics, the Lamp Post Group, LYNC Logistics, Max Trans Logistics, Reliance Partners, Shaw Industries, Steam Logistics, Tranco Logistics, Trident Transport, Workhound, and many more. The University of Tennessee - Chattanooga (UTC) and Chattanooga State Community College were represented, as well as Hamilton County Schools.
Reliance Partners, EPB, UTC, and the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event.
The conversation centered on Chattanooga’s opportunity to become an epicenter of the future of the mobility industry, which includes the transportation, logistics, freight, and automotive industries.
Molly Blankenship, VP of Talent Initiatives at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce began the presentation.
“We want to bring the logistics industry in greater Chattanooga together to talk and learn and share about the industry today, and how we want the industry to grow and advance in the future,” Blankenship said. She said that the event was about big, bold ideas, as well as incremental milestones and targeted economic development work.
Then Craig Fuller, CEO of FreightWaves outlined his vision of the future of the global mobility industry and the role that Chattanooga could play.
“Chattanooga has the potential—if the community gets together—to rally and be the center of the future of mobility,” Fuller said. Fuller noted that 60% of the top business deals closed in Chattanooga in 2018 were mobility-related, and five of the nine Chattanooga companies included on the INC 5000 list were in logistics. He estimated that 6,500 professional Chattanoogans worked in the mobility sector.
“We have the opportunity, but we’ll lose it if we don’t get it together,” Fuller said.
Charles Wood, VP of Economic Development for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, said that he was working on a five year economic development plan for Chattanooga and Hamilton County. Wood said that the intersection of transportation, logistics, and technology could be the kind of focus his team had been looking for.
“Can logistics be for Chattanooga what healthcare has been for Nashville?” Wood asked. “How do we start to turn up the heat on this? One of the things we need is some commitment from folks in the room.”
“We have so much in the logistics space in this community, we have got to look at more than where we are now and think about the future,” said Chad Eichelberger, President at Reliance Partners. “We have to find a way to leverage all of this to our benefit—we need to find a way to come together to build a long-term talent pipeline.”
Cam Doody, President at Bellhops, said that his tech firm was finding it more difficult to hire middle managers with data analytics skills.
Robert Dooley, Dean of UTC’s College of Business, said that the university was adding a sales center and hiring a Chair of Excellence in Sales. Dooley said that he hoped that the fall semester of 2019 would bring in the first class of Masters in Data Analytics students.
Many of the logistics companies represented at the Freight Alley event have aggressive growth plans for 2019. One thread running though much of the discussion centered on the need to work with government and institutions of higher education to build a pipeline of technical talent that would allow Chattanooga’s mobility companies to grow as fast as they can.