A new listing by Inc. magazine of the 5,000 fastest growing private companies in America includes nine companies started and growing in Chattanooga — more than half of which are tied to trucking and logistics. In a city made famous in the 1940s for its railroad links and Chattanooga Choo Choo, the fastest growing companies in Chattanooga today are moving goods on the highway.
The new Inc. list of the fastest growing businesses — released Wednesday based upon the companies’ growth pace in the past three years — listed Trident, Lync America and Reliance Partners as the fastest growing local companies. The local companies either ship, arrange or insure truck deliveries.Steam Logistics, an international freight forwarding business, also is on the list of rapidly growing businesses.
Chattanooga is home to other rapidly growing software, IT and environmentally green businesses. But the fastest growing companies are in transportation.
Collectively, the companies on this year’s Inc. 5000 list amassed $206.2 billion in revenue in 2017, up 158 percent from $79.8 billion in 2014. Each of the companies on the list had 3-year growth of more than 50 percent and most of the companies showed even greater revenue gains.
“If entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of an economy, consider Inc.’s ranking of 5000 companies America’s circulatory system,” Inc. editors said in the current issue of the magazine released Wednesday.
The life blood of Chattanooga’s growing economy appears to be circulating on highways.
Chad Eichelberger, the president of Reliance Parters who previously helped manage Access America and Coyote Logistics, said Chattanooga is perhaps second only to Chicago as a trucking hub and place to start a logistics company.
“When you look at the next wave of logistics brokers and emerging big players, of course they are still in Chicago but they are also in Chattanooga,” Eichelberger said. “This is a city that built U.S. Xpress and Covenant Transport (two of the 10 biggest long-haul trucking firms), Kenco (the biggest privately owned warehouse firm) and Access America (which merged with Coyota Logistics before selling to UPS for $1.2 billion). People are seeing the success that other people have had here and there is a kind of entrepreneurial spirit that’s different from a lot of other areas.”
Three decades ago, U.S. Xpress Enterprises and Covenant Transport were created by half brothers Max Fuller and David Parker, the heirs of Southwest Motor Freight founder Clyde Fuller. Chattanooga is also home to Kenco, the nation’s biggest privately held warehouse company, and was home to both Access America, one of the biggest logistics freight forwarding businesses, and the Dynamo Fund, a venture capital fund that raised $18 million two years go to invest in logistics startups.
Eichelberger is taking advantage of Chattanooga’s talent and connections to build the Reliance Partners insurance brokerage firm, which sells products in an open office environment similar to how Access America arranged its fleet shipment. The model appears to be working with premium income for Reliance expected to reach $95 million this year and up to $160 million next year, Eichelberger said.
The fastest growing local company last year, according to Inc., was Trident Transport, which Health Haley and Mark Harrell started in 2013. Trident Transport is a third-party logistics company that that works to build relationships with ts partners, eliminate supply chain problems, and offer solutions to meet demands of their customers.
“In recent years, Trident Transport has striven to consistently improve the quality of is committed to keep getting better,” said Garrett.
Harrell, the other company founder, said Wednesday he is “overwhelmed with the honor of being recognized on the Inc. 500 list as the one of the fastest growing companies in America.
“We started this company to be different,” he said. “Our motto “Anytime, anywhere, no matter what” is not just a phrase we use; we live by it. This is our Trident Transport’s promise to our customers, our employees and to the city of Chattanooga.”
Lync America CEO Cynthia Lee, whose company ranked 415th on the magazine’s 37th annual list, said being included in the Inc. ranking “is a testament to the strategic growth of your company over the past three years.
“Our success is directly attributable to our employees,” Lee said.
Inc said Lync sales have grown more than 1,200 percent in the past three years to $11.7 million last year.
The Chattanooga-based LMS (Logistics Made Simple) had a lower growth rate over the past three years but had more revenues in 2017 at $26 million, Inc. said.
In all, Inc. listed 85 businesses from Tennessee among the top 5,000 list and included 216 in Georgia.