published Sunday, November 25th, 2012

Wheels of fortune: Tranco adds to city's transportation cluster

Bruce Trantham, CEO of Tranco Logistics, and Larry Wyatt, COO of Tranco Logistics, speak about the former Bi-Lo facility their company recently purchased to run as a truck maintenance shop.
Bruce Trantham, CEO of Tranco Logistics, and Larry Wyatt, COO of Tranco Logistics, speak about the former Bi-Lo facility their company recently purchased to run as a truck maintenance shop.
Photo by Dan Henry.

WHERE THEY WORK

Chattanooga is home to a number of transportation and logistics businesses. The number of local employees among those are:

999 U.S. Xpress Enterprises

650 Kenco Group

439 Covenant Transport

215 Access America Transport

70 Tranco Logistics

Source: Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, companies

More than a decade and a half ago, Bruce Trantham and his brother started their Chattanooga-based transportation, warehousing and logistics business with a modest 1,500 square feet of space.

A pickup truck with a camper top and a van were their first vehicles, the Chattanooga native said about himself and brother Byron.

Today, Tranco Logistics has over 1 million square feet of space to service clients, recently partnering to buy what was the biggest grocery distribution center in the Chattanooga region.

Also, the company now has 30 vehicles in its network that services businesses nationally.

"It's a transportation hub," Trantham said about Chattanooga, noting it has easy interstate access in every direction.

Tranco is another in a growing line of businesses in Chattanooga's emergence as a transportation heavyweight.

The city already is home to two of the biggest over-the-road carriers in the nation in U.S. Xpress and Covenant Transport.

Kenco Group boasts more than 100 facilities in 25 states and Canada and 28 million square feet of warehouse space.

In addition, Access America Transport, founded in Chattanooga just 10 years ago, has become a player in the third-party logistics business with offices from San Antonio to Minnesota and annual revenues of about $400 million.

For Tranco, Trantham said, the best is yet to come as the company leverages Chattanooga's business growth.

Company revenues are slated to hit about $10 million this year, and he's projecting the figure could double in 2013. Volkswagen and Amazon, among other companies, are key customers of Tranco, Trantham said.

With 70 employees at Tranco now, that number is expected to grow as revenues advance, he said.

"We're positive on Chattanooga," the business owner said.

New venture

Last month, a new subsidiary, Tranco Fleet Services, started up in a 12-acre Polymer Road facility formerly held by grocer Bi-Lo.

Larry Wyatt, chief operating officer of Tranco Logistics, said the company is doing truck and trailer maintenance in the facility in which Bi-Lo once took care of its fleet locally.

"We had a need for maintenance," he said. "We offer the same maintenance to surrounding transportation companies."

Wyatt said, for example, it landed candy maker Farley's & Sathers business when it was closing its Lookout Valley facility.

Trantham, who spent 18 years at United Parcel Service before ramping up his enterprise, said Tranco saw an opportunity.

"It came to us," he said. "We started working on our stuff. Folks started coming to us."

Also, Wyatt said, plans soon are to open a truck-washing facility at the site.

"We'll look to expand," he said about the new venture, noting the business will service large and small fleets. "We could go 24 hours and service six days a week."

As well as housing Tranco Fleet, the site also sports about 170,000 square feet of warehouse space, he said.

Tranco is a partner with area businessmen Larry Armour and Steve Dillard in the purchase of the Polymer Road site along with 20 acres and 328,000 square feet of former Bi-Lo warehouse and office space nearby on Shallowford Road, Trantham said.

The Shallowford Road location was the area's biggest grocery distribution center, holding 72 truck docks and a lot of refrigerated warehouse space.

The $5.2 million purchase this summer is bringing new life into both facilities. Trantham said it's also operating from part of the giant Shallowford Road facility.

He added that he's open to another company leasing a portion of that space, or selling it to the right buyer.

Bi-Lo had supplied its grocery stores in the Chattanooga area from the space until it was shuttered in June 2007. Keene, N.H.-based C&S Wholesale Services was running the facility then, according to past reports.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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