Logistics company expanding Chattanooga workforce, footprint

KCH Transportation leasing two floors in downtown's Southside

Staff photo by Mike Pare / KCH Transportation Chief Executive Jason Whitten, right, on Tuesday talks about the space his company is leasing at King Street Station. At left is Megan Freeman, senior leasing agent for building owner Urban Story Ventures.

Chattanooga-based logistics company KCH Transportation is expanding with plans to about double its workforce in the city and add up to 400 jobs across its Southeast network over three years.

The company is leasing two floors at King Street Station in downtown's Southside to become that historic building's biggest tenant, according to the company.

KCH's growth is part of the booming logistics sector in Chattanooga, where several thousand jobs have been created over the past decade or so by an array of companies.

Jason Whitten, KCH's chief executive, said plans are to move its 150 Chattanooga employees to the 28,000-square-foot King Street site when the build-out of the space is ready in November.

The company, which has employees in offices in the South Broad District and near Finley Stadium, expects to grow in Chattanooga to between 270 and 360 employees within two to three years, Whitten said.

"Downtown Chattanooga is important to us," he said in an interview.

Whitten said that while KCH's workers live across Hamilton County, downtown is a central location for them.

The company also has offices in Atlanta; Nashville; Augusta, Georgia; Tampa, Florida; and soon in Dallas, he said.

Plans are to hit about 800 employees companywide in three years, Whitten said.

"We're still hiring," he said.

Megan Freeman, senior leasing agent for building owner Urban Story Ventures, said KCH fills up the six-level structure that was raised in 1913 and used for warehouse space for many years.

"KCH is the last piece of the puzzle," she said in an interview.

Urban Story Ventures, the Chattanooga-based developer, bought the 80,000-square-foot brick building about five years ago and gave the site a facelift in a development valued at about $35 million.

A key to the parcel is the availability of parking, officials said, with the location holding a couple hundred spaces.

Whitten said KCH was started in 2004 as a trucking company by his family, but in 2014 it transitioned into the logistics business.

He said KCH grew during the coronavirus pandemic because it was already handling the hazardous materials business.

"We just got lucky," Whitten said. "We did real well."

He said company revenues by the end of this year will have jumped fivefold since 2020.

Still, the company CEO said, no customer makes up more than 5% of its business. KCH also does a lot of work in the manufacturing, distribution and drayage sectors, he said.

Whitten said people who join the company tend to stay, noting it's in KCH's culture.

"What matters is each other," he said. "We're a large family that happens to move freight."

Sawyer Byers, KCH's head of marketing, said the company is "culture and technology driven." He said in an interview that the company's turnover rate is so low that "we'd put that against anyone else."

Chattanooga's trucking and logistics businesses have grown to the extent that the area is often dubbed "freight alley" by officials.

Currently, Chattanooga developer Noon Development is redoing the long-vacant John Ross Building downtown where locally based Steam Logistics will create 400 new jobs in a nearly $7 million expansion.

Also, locally-based Trident Transport, a fast-growing freight brokerage and logistics business, recently shifted its headquarters to downtown's riverfront as it plans to add about 125 people in 2022.

Contact Mike Pare at [email protected] or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.