“Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.” For Port City Logistics, one of the largest third-party logistics service providers in the Southeastern United States, those words are as true today as they were when noted novelist Robert Louis Stevenson first said them nearly 150 years ago. Coming off its best year yet, Port City continues to plant the seeds that will drive the company’s projected double-digit growth (67%) for 2022 and beyond.
For instance, Port City has moved into and is operating its new 1.1-million-square-foot warehouse/corporate headquarters located less than a mile from the front gates of the Georgia Ports Authority’s Port of Savannah, the second-busiest port on the eastern seaboard. This latest evolution of Port City comes on the heels of a recent rebranding effort, realignment, and expansion of its leadership team, and the beginning of a strategic partnership with Turvo, an industry-leading collaboration application. This partnership empowers shippers, logistics providers, and carriers to unite their supply chains, collaborate in real-time, and deliver exceptional customer experiences that accelerate growth for all stakeholders.
“We’ve moved into our new headquarters. Yes, it’s a dream come true but we’re not even scratching the surface of the opportunities that lie ahead,” said Eric Howell, Port City’s Chief Executive Officer. “This is our next beginning. This is our newest launch point.”
Listen to our recent podcast with Chief Growth Officer, Michael Caney, on how Port City will utilize the Turvo platform as part of our growth efforts.
Building on Success
To understand the magnitude of Port City’s evolution and plans for the future, one must understand the company’s grassroots beginning. In the early 2000s, Billy Robinson, a salesman in industrial supplies and a man of vision, noted the flurry of activities in and around the port of Savannah (Georgia) and wanted in on the action. The consummate relationship builder, Robinson left Corporate America after 20 years, went to work learning the players in Savannah and invested in a small courier business. He worked a day job and reconciled inventory at night on a spreadsheet.
“We had five thousand square feet of warehouse space, six employees, and five pickup trucks,” Robinson said. “We ran around town and picked up freight forwarding and customs brokers’ stuff and took it to the customs house for timestamping in the morning. Then, we’d pick it up and distribute it back. We got into light industrial deliveries the next year. We went full speed ahead from that point, knowing what the port was doing and how it was growing.”
For the next 20 years, Robinson’s company grew along with the Port of Savannah. Today, Port City offers a combined three and a half million square feet of warehouse space spread across thirteen locations, servicing all aspects of the logistics process. Its service portfolio includes drayage for imports and exports, long- and short-term storage in warehouses, a myriad of distribution services from transloading to picking and packing for prominent retailers and BCOs, and Integrated Capacity Solutions, its asset-lite business, services for trailer pooling, regional dedicated, and regional and nationwide TL and LTL. In short, Port City became a one-stop shop for supply chain management.
For all the company’s immense success — Port City has doubled in size in the past 2 years — Robinson realized a few years ago “the business had just got bigger than me, to the point where I needed stronger help, particularly in the areas of operations and finance.”
Building an All-Star Team
The first major leadership shift occurred when Robinson and his partners, Robert Dowd and Robbie Mingledorff, bought Savannah Warehouse Services in 2012, which brought Eric Howell and his expert background in commercial banking to Port City as CFO. After 6 consecutive years of growth, Robinson ascended to the chairman’s role in 2019 and appointed Howell as CEO in his place. Howell immediately focused on building the infrastructure for his growth plan to bolster financial stability and capital structure.
Howell believes in the “First Who…Then What” management philosophy of Jim Collins from the classic book, ‘Good to Great’:
“First Who, Then What—get the right people on the bus—is a concept developed in the book Good to Great. Those who build great organizations make sure they have the right people on the bus and the right people in the key seats before they figure out where to drive the bus.”
Under Howell’s leadership, Port City made significant investments in expanding its management team with the following key hires and subsequent promotions.
- August 2019 – Tony Wiggins, Chief Financial Officer, oversees the treasury and accounting functions of Port City. Tony was a long-time advisor to Port City, serving as the company’s tax and financial review accountant for six years before joining the company as CFO and shareholder in 2019. Tony’s prior background as an auditor for Ernst & Young LLP, corporate controller of a $200 million construction company, small business entrepreneur, and partner at Coastal Consulting Management Group allows him to understand and communicate the best ways to grow and maximize market value in a business.
- November 2020 – Michael Caney, Chief Growth Officer: An industry veteran with more than 20 years’ experience that includes positions as an Executive Vice president at FreightWaves and President of Riverside Transport’s Logistics division (recently divested to FitzMark), Caney initially was tasked with expanding Port City’s transportation business. In December 2021, he was promoted to Chief Growth Officer, a role in which he will oversee the overall growth execution of the company, the transportation solutions business, the commercial and marketing strategies, and technology teams.
- February 2021 – Chris Somerville, Sr. Vice President, Customer Experience & Integrations: Somerville, formerly of CEVA Logistics, brought to Port City a greater depth of expertise in technology, e-commerce, and distribution. One of Port City's goals is to build valuable solutions and outstanding customer experiences. Somerville’s role runs parallel with John Cantrell’s, to walk logistics solutions design and technology experience in lockstep.
- April 2021 – Rusty Bragg, Chief Operating Officer: Bragg is responsible for over 3.5 million square feet of warehouse distribution space across 13 locations. He also oversees Port City’s business analytics, inventory control, and industrial engineering, as well as safety, security, and facilities maintenance. Prior to Port City, Rusty worked at Gulfstream Aerospace for 22 years, where he was a director overseeing Customer Support Material Planning, Inventory, Transportation, and Distribution that serviced the worldwide Gulfstream fleet.
- June 2021 – John Cantrell, Vice President, Technology: Cantrell joined Port City after spending five-plus years in information systems, overseeing TMS strategy and automation at Bear Transportation, a company bought by ArcBest Technologies, where he worked with Caney. Cantrell owns the architecture and development of Port City’s products and customer-facing technology solutions.
Other key hires include Jennifer Watters as VP of Human Resources, Brandon Claridge as Director of Organizational Development, Tyler Forbes as Director of Integrated Capacity Solutions, and Brian Purtell as Director of Finance.
Moving into 2022, the original founders and partners have stepped out of the day-to-day management of Port City with the remaining executive team leading the charge for growth. The goal is to link market demand to the customer experience by executing in three service offerings — drayage, warehousing, and integrated capacity solutions — wrapping both physical assets and partner networks with a robust tech stack that blends owned assets and third-party providers.
Adding a Fourth Leg to the Stool
Many logistics service providers are looking to grow non-asset revenue with a focus on taking advantage of high multiples and venture capital or private equity activity. Chances are many LSPs are encumbered by the size of their asset networks and the age of their technology. They cannot scale solutions at speed, operate buildings, or implement and integrate multiple platforms like WMS, TMS, or other supply chain systems. Port City has enhanced its one-stop shop for services by forging a partnership with Turvo, a leading provider of collaboration applications specifically designed for the supply chain. Turvo’s technology helps shippers, logistics providers, and carriers unite their supply chains, collaborate in real-time, and deliver outstanding customer experiences that accelerate growth for all stakeholders. This partnership overlays Port City’s drayage, warehousing, and brokerage services to form a powerful fourth leg to its product offering.
“This partnership enables us to provide customers with a single view of their middle-mile logistics, delivered in real-time collaboration, resulting in the execution of key logistics processes with partners,” Somerville said. “Building a decoupled Port City data layer abstracted from underlying business applications allows everyone to focus on building reusable components that leverage the Port City data layer to quickly change and adapt to customer and internal operator requirements — all of which adds customer value through our partner ecosystem.
Strategy for Growth
Port City’s key hires, new multi-faceted, speed to market approach, and a strategic partnership with Turvo will help Port City scale and move faster than most of its competitors, setting the stage for an exciting year of growth in 2022.
“We will expand with a geographic focus in the Southeast and other port cities. We have a partner network with assets and buildings in markets like Indianapolis, Baltimore, New York, and Dallas, which will help us continue building the fastest freight network in the Southeast from the first to the middle mile,” Howell said.
For example, Port City has launched its first offering as a 4PL with a partner distribution company for one of its largest customers in Indianapolis. Such partnerships are geared toward making the customer experience as high as possible. It’s challenging to (1) build software, (2) scope out spinning up a warehouse/storage area to receive a product, and (3) plan outbound truckloads, and do it all in a fast, compressed timeline. Furthermore, customers don’t want to sign up with multiple vendors because this adds time and fragments the solution. With Port City, customers know who the vendor is. For certain managed solutions, Port City operates on a transparent cost-plus agreement. Reducing vendor proliferation equals less paperwork, fewer partners, more control, and greater consistency. The ultimate goal of the model is to build trust that leads to lasting value.
“We want to operate with focus and discipline, give our people and customers a great experience, rapidly deliver multimodal solutions, and operate at a profit while giving value back to our community,” Howell said. “This is a solid 10-year plan that is backed by a firm commitment from our executive team. Anyone who works with us will have the same management team that is squarely focused on delivering value in all that we do.”
Contact Port City Logistics today to learn more about the seeds they are planting to help you be successful.