Retail is king in Northwest Arkansas, but the logistics sector is growing. Total Quality Logistics (TQL), one of the largest freight brokerage firms in the nation, announced Tuesday (Sept. 16) plans to open an office in Lowell that could house up to 50 jobs.
According to a statement from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, hiring for sales jobs will begin immediately, and the initial investment is $250,000.
“We’re pleased to add the state of Arkansas to our footprint. This new location will give us access to the outstanding professional talent in Northwest Arkansas,” TQL Executive Vice President Kerry Byrne said in the statement.
Cincinnati-based TQL was founded in 1997 by Ken Oaks, a former shipper in the fresh produce industry. In 2013, the company moved more than 815,000 loads, including fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry, building supplies, and machinery and equipment. The company has grown from $1 million in sales in 1997 to more than $1.6 billion in 2013. The company has more than 30 offices in 15 states.
TQL is a non-asset based freight brokerage company, which means it does not own equipment but connects those who need goods shipped with operators of the various modes of transportation. The company notes on its website that it works with more than 50,000 carriers in North America to move 3,500 “different types of commodities.”
TQL’s sales team ranked four years in a row as one of the “50 Best Companies to Sell For” by Selling Power Magazine. TQL is a 10-time honoree on the Inc. 500|5000 list and recipient of numerous workplace and industry awards.
“Northwest Arkansas has a strong reputation as a hub for logistics, so it’s only fitting for a company like Total Quality Logistics to be drawn here,” Gov. Mike Beebe said. “They should have no problem finding the sales force they need among the region’s well-educated workforce.”
According to the AEDC statement, TQL was the first freight brokers in the nation to introduce mobile freight finding applications to the trucking industry. The company’s “Carrier Dashboard” app allows approved carriers to search for TQL loads and set up alerts to notify them when loads for lanes they want become available. “TQL TRAX” allows shippers to look up specified loads by PO number and track status, as well as easily communicate with their personal account executive from their mobile phone or tablet.
“Rogers and Lowell have a long history of working together to welcome new companies to the Northwest Arkansas business family,” Raymond Burns, president and CEO of the Rogers-Lowell Chamber of Commerce, said in the statement. “The entire area is glad to see a strong company such as TQL planting roots in Lowell, and we are looking forward to seeing the company grow and prosper here.”
NEAR THE HUNT GIANT
TQL opens its office next to one of the biggest players in the sector – Lowell-based J.B. Hunt Transport Inc.
Hunt, which began in 1961 as a small trucking operation, is now one of the world’s largest transportation services and logistics operations. Unlike TQL, Hunt not only provides logistics services but owns assets. With more than 66,000 units, the company has the largest private container fleet in North America. Hunt also works with more than 28,000 transportation companies to provide shipping and delivery services.
For the first six months of fiscal 2014, intermodal operations represented 60% of J.B. Hunt revenue and 76% of the company’s operating income.
Hunt’s Integrated Capacity Solutions segment is also growing. The segment employee count at the end of the first half of 2014 was 540, well ahead of the 440 during the same period in fiscal 2013. The number of third-party carriers used in the segment grew from 33,400 in the first half of fiscal 2013 to to 36,300 in the same period of 2014.
“We continue to execute our branch network growth strategy and opened two new branches during the quarter, bringing the total branch count to 26,” Hunt noted in its second quarter earnings report released July 15.
Growth in the industry sector has resulted in Hunt working with the University of Arkansas to develop a training program. In April, Hunt and the UA announced the J.B. Hunt Supply Chain University program. Almost 300 J.B. Hunt sales executives gathered during the summer of 2013 at the UA for the company’s supply chain forum.
“The J.B. Hunt Supply Chain University will expand the forum’s scope and reach by developing an innovative learning curriculum to empower J.B. Hunt employees with current supply chain knowledge focused on helping them create additional value for their customers,” noted a UA statement on the new program.
The Walton College of Business at the UA offers degree programs in transportation and logistics, supply chain management and supply chain management with a retail focus.
Grant Tennille, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, has said that Arkansas is in a position to be a global leader in logistics services and training. He said in an April speech to members of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce that the state's logistics industry is a primary example of what Arkansas innovation has done to change the world.
"Logistics was invented in Arkansas. Before Sam Walton and David Glass and J.B. Hunt, what we now know as logistics was just people driving things around in trucks,” Tennille said. “There is now incredible science behind how we move goods around the world. The concept of 'just in time delivery' – which if you're in business in this room, I promise you understand 'just in time.' That's the way the world runs now — that was invented in Bentonville, Arkansas."