Nov 01, 2021

Greater Chattanooga is the ‘Silicon Valley of Freight’

Among the multitude of advantages Greater Chattanooga offers as a center of commerce, its location and collection of transportation assets rank near the top.

The region has built an impressive logistics and distribution sector that leverages a pool of skilled talent and access to major interstate corridors, Class I freight rail service, river barge shipping and commercial air service that has earned the region the nickname The Silicon Valley of Freight.

A truckload of major logistics companies call the region home, among them Covenant Transport, U.S. Xpress and Kenco Group, the nation’s largest woman-owned third-party logistics company. A newer entrant, Arrive Logistics, invested $3.6 million to expand its freight brokerage operations into the region. Officials with the Austin, Texas-based company say they chose to establish a branch office in Chattanooga because of the region’s strong logistics presence in the Southeast, where it is within a day’s drive of one-third of the U.S. population. Arrive Logistics plans to create about 500 new jobs in Chattanooga over the next few years.

Thriving Inland Port

The 16-county region offers a ready supply of industrial parks and shovel-ready sites, several of which have been certified through state programs such as Tennessee Certified Sites, Alabama’s Advantage Site and Georgia Ready for Accelerated Development. Recent industrial park additions to the region include Spring Branch Industrial Park in Bradley County, Tennessee. Murray County, Georgia, has purchased a 382-acre parcel in Chatsworth to develop a regional business and industrial center.

Murray County is home to the Appalachian Regional Port, an intermodal facility that opened in 2018. The port allows large containers to be hauled by truck for loading onto CSX freight trains, which then transport them 335 miles to the deepwater Port of Savannah. Volkswagen’s Chattanooga assembly plant is one of the largest Appalachian Regional Port customers.

GE Appliances selected Murray County in 2019 for a $32 million logistics operation. The new facility, which opened in 2020 about a mile from the port, coordinates parts shipments to nine GE factories and warehouses in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Successful Young Companies

The critical mass of companies makes the region fertile ground for innovative logistics-related startups. Inc. magazine recently named 13 companies in the Greater Chattanooga region among the nation’s fastest-growing firms, and eight of those companies are involved with logistics.

“Chattanooga has a rich history in logistics and trucking, so we wanted to start and grow our company here,” says Barry Large, general partner with Dynamo Management Co., a Chattanooga venture capital firm founded in 2017.

Dynamo invests in innovative supply chain and mobility startups that utilize technology and better practices to move the industry forward. Large says Dynamo’s portfolio includes about 30 companies, 10 of which are international startups. Dynamo is an investor in Chattanooga-based WorkHound, which produces workforce software so truck drivers can provide real-time anonymous employee feedback to their companies. Dynamo hopes to add another 75 to 100 companies to its portfolio over the next 10 years, Large says.

“We are enjoying a nice rate of growth here in Chattanooga,” he says.

Another triumphant example of logistics success is FreightWaves, a Chattanooga startup that uses a data analytics software platform called SONAR to understand how things like weather, economic activity, technology and regulations change the freight markets. FreightWaves, which won the Chattanooga Chamber’s 2019 Spirit of Innovation Award, has raised more than $75 million in venture funding, including $37 million in two rounds of funding in early 2020.

By Kevin Litwin

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