How is business generally in the ATL area?
Business in the Atlanta area is thriving. Demand for warehouse space has steadily increased over the last four years, drastically driving down vacancy rates. This isn’t surprising given Atlanta’s tremendous advantages. Not only is the city at the heart of a pivotal region, but it offers a rich infrastructure connecting multiple ports such as Savannah, Charleston and Jacksonville. In fact, separate reports published last year by CNBC and Site Selection Group ranked Georgia as the #4 state in the country for infrastructure. Atlanta is also home to 15 Fortune 500 and 11 Fortune 1000 companies, due to its award-winning business climate. Their presence spurs innovation in services and technology alike, and provides the foundation for a highly skilled workforce. In all, Atlanta really is the optimal location in the southeast for companies to thrive.
Which industries seem to be hit hardest or doing best- making news or on your radar because of economic impacts or recovery successes?
Atlanta is both low cost and considered the most mobile-friendly city in the US. As a result, Atlanta is a growing hotbed for start-ups and technology disrupters, collaborating with and leveraging the presence of powerhouses like Manhattan, NCR, and First Data. We’re also seeing rapid growth in ecommerce throughout this region, fueled by companies like Amazon, Home Depot, and UPS.
The Automotive sector in particular is experiencing a renaissance in the region. OEMs and suppliers alike are being drawn by the area’s robust tax incentives, extensive infrastructure, and access to skilled labor, training, and resources. Not only are these companies bringing manufacturing jobs, but they are setting up their headquarters here as well. Kia is a great example. Since beginning production in 2009, they have grown to 3000+ workers on their 2200+ acre campus about an hour from downtown Atlanta. With Kia being just one of 16 OEMs with a major manufacturing presence in the southeast, we’ve seen more than 10 automotive suppliers locate or expand their operations in Georgia alone, creating 6,000+ jobs in just the last couple of years. Another way of measuring this impact is the growth of Georgia’s transportation equipment exports. It has grown 9.4% annually since 2000, almost double that of the U.S. average overall.
Like many other cities in the country, Atlanta’s housing/residential and commercial construction markets were hit hard during the recession. However, in the last three years, we’ve seen evidence of a strong recovery for both. For example, at the beginning of the year, 45 projects were under construction in the downtown community of Midtown alone. These projects included residential, office and mixed-use spaces. The Atlanta Business Chronicle also reported late last month, that completed construction on new office space was at its highest level in seven years.
How is Shipper’s business?
The Shippers Group has successfully positioned in this growing market, capturing opportunities as they arise, and creating them as well. We just opened another public warehouse facility in the Atlanta area back in March. Our newly constructed state-of-the-art facility is 538K square feet and strategically located near I-20 and I-285.
It was designed to support multiple customers, including those that require food grade certification. By doubling our footprint in the southeast, we can continue expanding our value-add offerings such as transportation, co-packing/repacking, ecommerce and 4PL services to mid-level manufacturers and distributors alike.
I truly believe that our success has everything to do with who we are as a company. Since our start in 1901, we have been a privately owned, family business. This doesn’t mean that we don’t bring in top talent from across the industry though. In fact, Rob Doyle was recently hired to lead The Shippers Group through our next phase of growth and beyond. Not only is Rob a recognized leader with a proven track record, but complements the 200+ years of operational experience of our executive team. And, by maintaining a financially sound, low-debt position, we are able to work with our clients on pricing structures that best suit their needs. This collaborative mindset also drives our interest in exploring new service offerings with our clients, as well as a constant focus on continuous improvement. We also take pride in our knowledgeable and motivated operations team, which not only get our clients up and running quickly, but deliver an exceptional customer experience throughout the relationship. It’s tenets like these at the fabric of The Shippers Group that have allowed us to be so successful both here in Atlanta and in Dallas which you’ll hear more about next time.
Is there an initiative or new focus area you’d like to emphasize?
We have so many great things happening at The Shippers Group right now, so let’s begin at the helm, with our bringing in Rob Doyle as President earlier this year. Rob is widely known and respected in our industry. He’s worked in everything from operations to business development, has held key leadership roles, and has served as Chairman of the IWLA in its best attended year, the 125th anniversary and has been extensively involved in other industry organizations like CSCMP, at the national and roundtable level. By leveraging his diverse and high-profile industry experiences, Rob will bring both depth and breadth to the executive team. And, knowing that Rob will ensure operational excellence continues during this time of significant growth, means that Graham Swank, co-owner and Ken Johnson, CEO can concentrate their energy on our customer relationships and identifying new opportunities. Rob’s leadership and presence is really driving great things for both our company and our customers.
We’re also rolling out a fresh new name and transitioning from Shippers Warehouse to The Shippers Group. This change is significant for us and reflects how our offering has evolved from warehousing only to a broad range of logistics and supply chain management services including co-packing/repackaging and ecommerce order fulfillment.
In Atlanta specifically, The Shippers Group is focused on growth—organically and through acquisition—in the food, consumer goods, and automotive industries. We know we will achieve these goals because of our continued investment in technology; the addition of resources in engineering, quality, and operations; talent practices that increase bench strength and train future leaders; and unwavering focus on innovation. We continuously improve processes and product flow, ultimately increasing our customers’ cash flow and speed to market. When combined with our expanding footprint and visionary leadership, we know significant opportunities are waiting for us.