UWT Logistics in Memphis tries branching out

John Ozier (left) is president of UWT Logistics and its year-old offshoot, United Warehouse Transportation. Chris Williams is CEO. A forklift speeds by in the 480,000-square-foot warehouse on Holmes Road. The company employs about 160 workers. (Photo by Mike Brown)

By Jonathan Devin

Memphis Commercial Appeal

Posted February 24, 2013 at 9:52 p.m.

A new transportation company started by UWT Logistics in Memphis has turned multi-million dollar revenues in its first year. How? By asking clients what they needed.

UWT’s new shipping line is shooting for 45 freight trucks by year’s end, crisscrossing the continent.

“We just simply said ‘yes’ a whole lot of times,” said Chris Williams, chief executive officer of UWT Logistics and its year-old United Warehouse Transportation unit. “A lot of people don’t want to try something new or take a chance. It’s amazing how many times we’ve won.”

UWT Logistics opened in 1934 as a simple operation called United Warehouse. It had about three clients and 150,000 square feet of warehouse space when Calvin Ozier bought the company in the mid-1990s. Ozier remains the majority owner.

A couple years after the purchase, Ozier’s son John came on board as president and the company began branching out. They now have 30 clients and over a million square feet.

Within the 50,000-employee transportation industry built around Memphis’ logistics hub, companies are striving to handle rising fuel costs, flat freight rates and driver shortages. Sitting down for an interview in UWT’s Memphis office, John Ozier described just how the firm has succeeded, growing to 160 employees.

“We’d bring the product in from wherever it was manufactured, inventory it, and we would put it into a pick location and then pick the orders and ship it,” Ozier said. “A couple years ago we started doing transportation. Both of them have taken off, but the transportation company has gone wild.”

In January 2012, UWT Logistics began operating United Warehouse Transportation with about eight trucks and a handful of drivers, some of which came through the acquisition of another small transportation company.

Its initial revenue was just under $1 million, but a year later that has grown to about $6 million in revenue and 25 trucks. Williams expects to have 45 trucks total in a couple months and plans to end the year with $8 million to $10 million in revenue.

Transportation afforded opportunities that warehousing did not, he said.

“In warehousing you have to wait for the business to come to you,” Ozier said. “It’s such a major expense for someone to move all of their products from one facility to another unless everything happens in perfect timing and someone outgrows their old facility. With transportation, you can call anybody and if your prices are good and you can promise good service, a lot of people will give you a chance.”

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