Editor's note: A previous version of this story posted on Aug. 16 did not include both of the Taimen logistics companies among the Chattanooga companies on the Inc. 5000 list.
Despite the slowdown in freight shipping this year, a record number of Chattanooga's trucking and logistics businesses moved into the fast lane in 2022 among America's fastest-growing businesses.
In its annual ranking of the nation's top growing companies, Inc. magazine includes 20 Chattanooga companies on its list of the 5,000 U.S. businesses with the fastest rate of revenue growth in the past three years. Among the local companies on the new Inc. 5000 list, 70% are either logistics companies or businesses servicing the trucking industry.
"I think logistics are driving our entrepreneurial and startup economy here in Chattanooga, which is why we have called this 'Freight Alley,'" Freightwaves CEO Craig Fuller said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "We have a high concentration of talent here in a business that encourages growth and innovation, so I think we'll continue to see a lot of growth in many of these startup businesses in logistics."
Fuller, whose family has been involved in building such trucking giants as Southwest Motor Freight, U.S. Xpress Enterprises, Covenant Logistics and Transcard in Chattanooga, monitors and reports on the logistics industry for the software and media company Freightwaves, which was among the companies included on the Inc. 5000 list again this year.
Fuller said Chattanooga now rivals Chicago as a hub for the logistics industry, which is why Fuller said Freighwaves is bringing its "F3: Future of Freight Festival" to Chattanooga in November. Similar to last fall, the three-day event is expected to draw thousands of freight industry leaders to Chattanooga.
Ted Alling, one of the founders of the freight brokerage firm Access America and an investor in a number of logistics startups in Chattanooga, said the new Inc. 5000 list underscores his belief that "Chattanooga is the best city in the US to start a logistics business.
"We have a deep talent pool locally that is attracting new investments from logistics start-ups and expansion from other prominent industry players," Alling said in an emailed statement Wednesday. "There is also an incredible amount of buy-in from the local VC and academic communities. UTC and Chatt State have been incredibly supportive."
Making the list
The slowdown in freight shipments and mergers in the industry, such as KnightSwift buying U.S. Xpress, may lead to some employee dislocations, including the termination of nearly 30,000 employees with the bankrupt Yellow Corp. But with Chattanooga's industry foundation and talent pool, other startup ventures in logistics are likely to be spurred by the industry shakeups Fuller said.
The 20 Chattanooga companies on the new Inc. 5000 list are 25% more than the previous record high reached last year on the 2022 Inc. 5000 list.
Collectively, the companies on the new Inc. 5000 list grew their revenues by 219% over the past three years to reach a total of $358.2 billion last year. The companies on the list also have added nearly 1.2 million jobs to the U.S. economy, according to Inc. magazine.
The fastest growing logistics business in Chattanooga on the Inc. 5000 list is Steam Logistics, an international freight broker that moved into the renovated John Ross building this spring with more than 500 of the company's 700 employees.
Steam Logistics, which ranked No. 260 on the Inc. 5000 list, has been on the list of the fastest growing companies for seven consecutive years after the firm was started in 2012. Jason Provonsha, the founder and chief executive of Steam Logistics, called this year's ranking "particularly special" because the growth was built on a much bigger base than previous listings.
"Going from a $33 million company in 2019 to $765 million (in revenues) last year is an experience I will never forget," Provoncha said in an emailed statement Wednesday. "We've built a unique and diverse culture at Steam, and we're fortunate to have a team who takes such good care of that culture. I think it's as big of a reason for our success as anything."
Steam Logistics is among more than a dozen local freight brokerage companies that help arrange shipments and act as brokers between companies needing goods to be shipped and the trucking or other carriers that deliver such products.
More than half of the Inc. 5000 companies in Chattanooga this year are freight brokers, but others such as Freightwaves, Workhound and Reliance Partners serve the trucking and logistics industries with tracking data, employee surveys and accounting services.
Chattanooga's fastest-growing businesses
Among the 5,000 fastest-growing businesses in America over the past three years, 20 are headquartered in Chattanooga, and 14 of those are in logistics or are logistics support companies. The top local companies on the Inc. 5000 list and their rankings for growth from 2019 to 2022 include:
— Steam Logistics, a freight brokerage firm started in 2012 and headed by Jason Provonsha, is No. 260 on the list with a growth of 2,151%.
— www.mocalogistics.com, a logistics firm started in 2018 and headed by Jorge Papatzikos, is No. 766 on the list with a growth rate of 768%.
— KCH Transportation, a freight broker started in 2014 and headed by Jason Whitten, is No. 999 on the list with a growth rate of 593%.
— Trident Transport, a freight broker started in 2013 and headed by Heath Haley, is No. 1,331 on the list with a growth rate of 437%.
— F2F Transport, a freight broker started in 2016 and headed by Brian Starnes, is No, 1,386 on the list with a growth rate of 437%.
— Text Request, a telecommunications and texting company started in 2014 by Brian Elrod, is No. 1,341 on the list with a growth rate of 434%.
— WAP Sustainability, an environmental services firm started in 2009 and headed by William Paddock, is No. 1,693 on the list with a growth rate of 330%.
— Syssero, a business products company started in 2016 and headed by Amber Lowry, is No 2,042 on the list with a growth rate of 275%.
— Logistix, a freight broker started in 2016 and headed by Carlos Garcia, is No. 2,062 on the list with a growth rate of 273%.
— Max Trans Logistics of Chattanooga, a freight broker started in 2006 and headed by Mike McCallie, is No. 2,325 on the list with a growth rate of 273%.
— White Harvest Energy, an energy firm started in 2014 and headed by Ben Edgar, is 2,337 on the list with a growth rate of 236%.
— Freightwaves, a software and media company covering logistics that was started in 2016 and is headed by Craig Fuller, is 2,386 on the list with a growth rate of 231%.
— Reliance Partners, an insurance broker that serves the logistics industry, was founded in 2009, is headed by Andrew Ladebauche and is No. 3,294 on the list with a growth rate of 230%.
— Market Street Partners, an accounting firm started in 2016 and headed by Kyle Bryant, is No. 2,559 on the list with a growth rate of 213%.
— Workhound, a survey and software firm that serves the logistics industry, was started in 2015, is headed by Max Farrell and is listed No, 2,897 with a growth rate of 182%.
— Taimen Trucklines, which was founded in 2017 by Christopher Wang, is ranked No. 3,105 among the Inc. 5000 list with a 3-year revenue growth rate of 167%.%.
— Taimen Trucklines, a trucking firm started in 2017 and headed by Christopher Wang, is No. 3,537 on the list with a growth rate of 140%.
— Delegator, an advertising firm started in 2009 and headed by Andrew Scarbrough, is No. 4,264 on the list with a growth rate of 103%.
— Ambition, a software company started in 2014 and headed by Travis Truett, is No. 4,569 with a growth rate of 90%.
Source: Inc. 5000