• The company doesn't actually own trucks. Instead, Access America Transport operates a transport version of a stock exchange. Serving as a clearinghouse for transportation, shippers and trucking companies can use Access America's software to set up shipments in a similar way to booking a plane ticket on a travel website.
• Trucking companies benefit because the software helps them fill their trailers. Shippers benefit because it makes it easier and faster for them to find a company to haul their goods. In addition to serving as a middleman between truckers and shippers, Access America has other lines of business that help move hazardous materials and handle logistics for government agencies and others.
Source: Access America Transport
ACCESS AMERICA TIMELINE
• 2002 -- Samford graduates Ted Alling and Barry Large start Access America in the Key-James Brick building, Large's family company, in Alton Park off Rossville Boulevard. Alling, who has worked at large logistics companies, believes he can do it better. CEO Alling and chief financial officer Large are the only two employees at the company initially.
• 2003 -- Miller Welborn and Allan Davis join the team. Davis, who also graduated from Samford, becomes chief operating officer.
• 2005 -- Access America opens its government services division to haul freight for the U.S. Department of Defense and other federal agencies.
• 2006 --The company overhauls its website to allow customers to set up their own logistics in a similar way to booking a flight on a travel site.
• 2007 -- Alling and Large found AAT Carriers, a asset-based trucking company that is separate from Access America Transport and handles hazardous materials for government agencies.
• 2010 -- Access America wins the Chattanooga Business of the Year, with 110 employees.
• 2011 -- Sales double to $190 million, and the company adds 100 new jobs in Alabama, Georgia, Minnesota, Ohio and Tennessee. The company adds its eighth location in Atlanta.
• 2012 -- The company adds offices in Denver and San Antonio, calls for sales to hit $400 million by the end of the year -- nearly equal to the total lifetime revenue of the previous nine years combined. The company has already doubled in size for eight of the last ten years.
• 2013 -- The first year of a planned expansion of 550 jobs in Chattanooga and Knoxville as the company moves toward $1 billion in sales.
Source: Access America Transport
Here's a riddle: two friends in a garage come up with an idea. Within a decade they've grown the venture to $385 million in sales and are well on their way to employing 1,000 workers.
Hint: it's not a Silicon Valley startup, it doesn't make iPhones and the name doesn't rhyme with grapple or frugal.
The answer is Chattanooga-based Access America Transport, a logistics company that's on track to double its workforce and break the $1 billion sales barrier in five years, said president Chad Eichelberger.
At the company's Warehouse Row offices in downtown Chattanooga on Monday, Eichelberger announced that Access America will hire an additional 550 workers over the next five years, including 450 additional workers in Chattanooga and 100 more in Knoxville. That's up from 425 workers currently.
"This will be a big expansion," he said, calling the 550 job estimate "conservative.
"We believe we could easily surpass those numbers."
Bill Hagerty, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said Access America was adding to Tennessee's growing reputation as a "logistics powerhouse."
Chattanooga also serves as the headquarters for trucking giants U.S. Xpress and Covenant Transport, two of America's top 10 long-haul trucking companies.
"Entrepreneurs are the very backbone of our economy," Hagerty said, calling Access America a "homegrown, indigenous effort."
Access America's employees bring home an average income of $72,000 per year, the company said. That means the new job commitment amounts to a payroll increase of about $42 million over five years -- a big boost to the state economy.
Since its founding in 2002, Access America has carved out a niche as the middleman between trucking companies and shippers, using technology to help trucking companies keep their trailers full and to help shippers move their freight efficiently. Co-founders Ted Alling, Barry Large and Allan Davis started the third-party logistics company 10 years ago in Alton park off Rossville Boulevard. Today, it has nine offices across seven states, serving 45,000 trucking companies and 3,500 shippers.
The secret, Alling said, is paying workers well and giving employees the very best equipment.
"We have better technology and lower employee turnover than our competitors," said CEO Ted Alling. "We pay our people more and we have better culture -- so they stay."
Growing a company culture requires "a lot of extra-curricular activities," said Eichelberger.
Eichelberger said at intra-company sporting competitions during the winter in Minnesota, employees have jumped into ice-cold lakes as a group.
"We've all jumped into the frozen lake before," he said. "I don't think you see that at a lot of companies."
Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield praised the unconventional entrepreneurs, not just for creating jobs but for soaking up a portion of the city's vacant downtown office space and for helping to save the Warehouse Row development "from the wrecking ball."
The Chattanooga headquarters currently occupies 75,000 square feet, with the first right of refusal on an additional 35,000 square feet, company officials said.
"We always knew that Chattanooga had the elements of enterprise and the spark of entrepreneurism, but the spark was not sparking often enough," Littlefield said. "Access America brought that spark back to our community in a big way."
Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at email@example.com or 423-757-6315.