Chattanooga-based Access America launches international shipping company

Chattanooga-based Access America launches international shipping company

September 19th, 2013 by Shelly Bradbury in Business Around the Region

Ted Alling, co-founder and CEO of Access America Transport

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

The founders of Chattanooga-based third-party logistics firm Access America Transport have launched a new business to handle international shipping.

Steam Logistics specializes in air and ocean shipping with some cross-the-border services. The company is not a subsidiary of Access America, but the two companies will work in tandem, Access America co-founder and CEO Ted Alling said.

"We kept hearing customers asking us, 'When are you guys going to get into international freight? We want to give you all our freight,'" he said. "So it's just something we had to do."

He and Access America co-founders Barry Large and Allan Davis have put $600,000 into starting the new company and have hired 12 people, with plans to add an additional 50 in Chattanooga.

One of the first hires was Brad Kemp, hired as chief operating officer at Steam. He previously held a top management position with a leading global logistics company in Cleveland, Ohio.

He said that Alling's long-term perspective helped pull him to Steam Logistics.

"Their idea is to build this so it's a scalable, long-term operation rather than a make-money-fast operation," he said, adding that he hopes to build on Access America's success. "The culture they have, and the sales an marketing techniques that have made them successful -- we hope to borrow some of that secret sauce, but we'll have a different business model."

The company will handle shipping for everyone from mom-and-pop shops to national accounts and shipping all sorts of commodities, he said.

"The commodity could be anything from specialized to oversized to containerized," he said.

Like Access America, Steam Logistics is based in Chattanooga, with offices in Warehouse Row. So far, all of the company's key hires have come from other cities like Chicago, Atlanta, and Cleveland, Ohio, Alling said.

It's unusual to launch an international logistics company in a mid-sized Tennessee city, he added.

"Chattanooga has become an international hub for business with Volkswagen, Altstom, Wacker," he said. "I don't know if we could have done this 10 or 15 years ago. Most companies like this are headquartered in a bigger city or a city that's more of a port."

Kemp expects the central location to be a major competitive advantage.

"A lot of our competitors are what I'll call legacy competitors," he said. "They have offices in every little port across the country. They'll have 50 or 60 offices across the United States. It becomes difficult, in my estimation, to consistently manage that far flung of an operation."

Steam Logistics will open offices in ports like Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta -- mostly to have boots on the ground for air freight -- and the company will add a Minneapolis, Minn., sales office in the next six weeks. But the Chattanooga location will serve as the central hub for every job, making it easy to compensate if someone gets sick or is out on maternity leave, Kemp said.

Steam Logistics is starting out as a 12-hour-a-day operation. But within 18 to 24 months, the business will move to a 24-hour-a-day operation in order to accommodate worldwide customers, Kemp added. The company will celebrate a grand opening on Oct. 1.

Alling said Steam Logistics is deeply rooted in Access America. The trucking logistics company employs 550 people and hit $500 million in revenue in 2012.

"Steam already has a lot of the same Access America DNA," he said.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.