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Staff file photo / Northbound Interstate-75 traffic approaching Interstate -24 westbound backs up far into Georgia in this view from Exit 1 in East Ridge. The Chattanooga area is termed "freight alley" because of its cluster of trucking and logistics companies.

Chattanooga-based FreightWaves is hosting a national logistics convention this year in an event slated to attract over 2,000 people and help reignite the city's hard-hit meetings business.

Craig Fuller, the freight data and analytics company's chief executive, said it usually holds such events in large cities such as Atlanta, Dallas, or Chicago. But the pandemic last year prompted it to put off such a meeting and officials decided to host the conference this November in the Scenic City, he said.

Called F3: Future of Freight Festival, the city's convention center and downtown will serve as its base but plans are to have venues at more than 30 locations during the Nov. 8, 9, and 10 schedule.

"It will cover what's available for today and the next decade — EVs, drones, the whole future of the industry," Fuller said.

In terms of safety, Fuller said FreightWaves is encouraging attendees to have coronavirus vaccinations and officials are considering whether people will need to show proof. Also, the company is looking at investing in on-site testing and other safety steps, he said.

"We're still working through those details," Fuller said. "We're working with local and national health officials to get guidance. We want to make sure we deliver as safe an environment as possible."

Barry White, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Tourism Co., said that such a conference would be one of the largest in the city in a typical year.

"It's fantastic during a challenging time," he said, adding that FreightWaves is "thinking about their own community and bringing this event to us."

White said safety is "the utmost concern and utmost importance."

"At this point, the fall looks like a time when everyone is anxiously planning for," he said. "Given no surprises, we're certain this will take place in the fall."

White put the economic impact conservatively at $1.5 million.

David Bradford, FreightWave's chief of staff, said plans are to hold sessions indoors and outdoors. While F3 will feature experts in the logistics sector, the event also will hold music events and other entertainment, he said.

"We'll really do it big and right," he said, adding that the Tennessee Aquarium and Horizon Pavilion are expected to serve as venues.

Bradford said that seeing the decline in the pandemic's infection numbers and the vaccines, the company wanted to "get something on the books" for its audience.

Fuller, who founded FreightWaves about five years ago, said that logistics and the supply chain is undergoing a renaissance amid the pandemic. Retailers are having to figure out how to deliver goods faster to people's homes and looking at innovation to do so, he said.

The conference will examine what's available today in the industry and in the next decade, Fuller said.

"We love Chattanooga being the host because of the focus on evolving as a Smart City," he said. "The future of logistics and mobility is enabled and will thrive in a Smart City. Chattanooga is the perfect place to demonstrate the technologies and challenge people to think about the possibilities."

Fuller said FreightWaves, which began commercial operations in 2017, had a good year in 2020 despite the pandemic. The company has 168 employees, including about 100 in Chattanooga, he said.

The company CEO added that the privately held company is "very bullish on what's happening both in our business and public markets."

Concerning what the future looks like in terms of capital, Fuller said, FreightWaves is "well positioned for a public offering."

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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