Industry Veteran Now On Fourth Logistics Startup

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 371 views 

Eric Wolfe knows how to help businesses get products from point A to point B.

By rail, truck or intermodal, the veteran executive of supply chain and logistics — the nuts and bolts of transporting goods — has made a name for himself working for some of the top companies in Northwest Arkansas.

Wolfe, 50, has already played significant roles in the development of three logistics companies, most notably during a 12-year career with BNSF Logistics, a global logistics provider that maintains its U.S. headquarters in Springdale.

He’s now headed down the startup path a fourth time with Watco Supply Chain Services in Springdale. Wolfe was named the company’s president in June 2014 when the parent company, Kansas-based transportation group Watco Companies LLC, announced the spinoff.

Watco is the second-largest shortline railroad operator and the largest privately held shortline railroad in the U.S., but wanted to further develop complementary services for its existing 400-plus customer base, specifically by expanding its highway and intermodal offerings.

When Watco CEO Rick Webb needed a top logistics executive to take control, he looked to Wolfe. He just marked his second year with the company, and the results speak for themselves.

WCSC now employs 90 people throughout the country and is on track for about $60 million in top-line revenue this year through its four business units — highway logistics, intermodal, rail and an engineering and regulatory consulting team.

Not bad for a company that didn’t have its first revenue activity until September 2014.

The growth has been aided by the acquisition of Aspen Transportation, a regional third-party logistics company in Jonesboro, completed last October. More regional acquisitions are being pursued, Wolfe said, though he couldn’t talk about any specifics.

“We’d like to add $100 million of enterprise value in four more years,” he said.

During a recent interview at his Springdale office, Wolfe said the prospect of helping Watco start a new business was enough to lure him from BNSF Logistics — but just barely.

“We had built a great team and a great business,” Wolfe said. “There are and there were great people at BNSF Logistics, and I very much enjoyed my time there. I was employee No. 1 there. I had developed a good relationship with Rick Webb through the years, and the more I got to know the culture, I liked the company. I thought it would be an interesting opportunity to help diversify them and branch into additional service offerings.”

Wolfe’s career began in 1988 at J. B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. in Lowell, working part time as a billing clerk during his senior year at the University of Arkansas. He earned a marketing degree in 1989, and after completing J.B. Hunt’s management training program, he was part of the startup team that launched J.B. Hunt Logistics in 1992. He was eventually named vice president of operations in 1994.

Three years later, Wolfe, a Missouri native, left J.B. Hunt to start Cardinal Logistics Management of Concord, North Carolina. He maintained a home in Northwest Arkansas and developed an office in Lowell, which eventually became the biggest managed transportation office in the company, with $100 million in revenue by 1999.

Eventually, that business was spun off a technology company called Clicklogistics, which provided host applications for clients to perform logistics management. Wolfe served as chief operating officer. BNSF Logistics, a subsidiary of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., was formed in 2002 when Burlington Northern Santa Fe bought certain assets from Clicklogistics.

Wolfe was named vice president and helped guide the company through a rapid growth phase that included several more acquisitions.

He was the company’s vice president and general manager when honored as a member of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class in 2004, and eventually assumed the role of chief operating officer in 2011.

As his professional career has prospered, Wolfe makes clear what his top priority is — being a doting and proud “dance dad” to his 12-year-old daughter, Summer, who is already a nine-time national champion.

“I have loved supporting her and watching her grow as a person and a competitor, while retaining her humble nature,” Wolfe said.