Driving innovation

Green Bay grows in stature as a hub for transportation, logistics

Posted on Apr 30, 2020 :: Insight Insider
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

The Green Bay area may be known for the paper industry, its strong manufacturing base and the Packers, but there’s another industry sector drawing national attention: transportation and logistics.

“Nobody realizes it unless you work in the industry,” says Kelly Armstrong, vice president of economic development for the Greater Green Bay Chamber. “There’s a strong cluster of companies here involved in transportation and logistics that has made us a hub. It’s a real differentiator for the economy.”

According to the chamber’s estimates, Green Bay is home to 642 transportation and logistics companies and an estimated 11,000 logistics and transportation jobs. “Clusters usually start with a few key anchors and grow from there. The heart of this cluster is definitely Schneider,” Armstrong says.

Schneider, which was founded in 1935, employs 15,000, including 3,800 in Green Bay. Schneider’s corporate functions and transportation and logistics operations are based in Green Bay.

“The greater Green Bay area has a foundation of transportation and logistics talent like few other locations, and this helps attract businesses,” says Mike Kukiela, vice president/general manager of supply chain management and shared services with Schneider. “The knowledge and skills developed by our people (over the past 85 years) has created somewhat of a logistics DNA in our enterprise and the surrounding community that’s hard to match.”

And while the company plays a vital role in the industry, it is just one piece of the puzzle. Other transportation and logistics companies and multiple businesses serve the industry as well — whether it’s finding a way for businesses to share trailers to cut costs or using software to manage shipping container expenses.

“There are many great transportation and logistics companies located in the Green Bay area — many of them with strong Schneider connections and often Schneider roots,” says Brian Stuelpner, Schneider’s vice president of strategy, planning and architecture. “We are happy to see each other do well, as we know continued growth of our industry and development of our talent locally
will help us all be successful now and in the future.”

Software solutions

Several Green Bay tech startups have their roots in the transportation and logistics industry. Many entrepreneurs got their start by seeing an unresolved issue in the industry and developing a software solution to correct the deficiency.

That was definitely the case for MatchBack Systems founder Todd Ericksrud. He says most shipping containers destined for the region originate in China and then cross the Pacific Ocean where they enter the United States through the international port in Long Beach, Calif. From there, many are placed on trains and head toward Chicago. There, the containers are placed on trucks and hauled north. After delivery, most containers return empty through the supply chain.

“I saw the opportunity to create a solution that would connect companies so the containers could return with full loads,” Ericksrud says.The software helps businesses find shipments to fill those empty containers, which not only improves efficiency, but also lowers overall emissions.

MatchBack works with clients around the globe. “People living in Green Bay and not involved with the transportation and logistics industry may be surprised to realize what a hub we are,” Ericksrud says. “But when you talk to people in the industry and mention you’re from Green Bay, there’s no surprise at all. They recognize that we have a great reputation in supply chain management. There’s incredible competency and innovation around supply chain logistics in this area that you can stack up with people anywhere.”

Mark Hackl created his business, Lanehub Inc., after realizing many truck trailers were running empty or half empty. Like Ericksrud, Hackl worked in logistics at several companies in Green Bay helping them to find cost savings by aligning where shipments were going and where their suppliers were.

“I did it all manually and it was very time consuming,” he says. “Lanehub is basically a social network or Match.com for the transportation industry. When companies need to transport smaller quantities of goods, we try to help them save money and avoid empty trucks coming home. It’s like an airline ticket — it makes more sense to book a round trip instead of two one-way tickets.”

Technology drives Lanehub, Hackl says. “The technology we use is cloud based and built in a way that companies can get into and find their way around so they can make the necessary connections to run their trucks as full as possible,” he says.

Earlier this year, Transplace, a Texas-based provider of transportation management software, purchased Lanehub. Hackl says the transaction will help take Lanehub to the next level since it will offer more access to technology. “The transportation hub is definitely growing here. Lanehub is just the tip of the iceberg,” he says.

Another logistics and transportation industry veteran, Craig Dickman, founded Breakthrough in 2004 to solve a problem he noticed while working at Paper Transport Inc. — inaccurate fuel reimbursements. He developed a tool that provides customers with an alternative methodology for shipper fuel management. In 2018, Dickman left his role as Breakthrough’s CEO and chief innovation officer and later that year was named managing director at TitletownTech.

“Shippers like Whirlpool, Procter & Gamble and Georgia-Pacific are able to more effectively manage the cost, consumption and emissions associated with the fuel used to move their goods to market,” says Matt Balzola, vice president of Go To Market at Breakthrough.

Breakthrough’s Fuel Recovery tool allows shippers to calculate the exact cost of fuel used to move goods to market, bringing transparency to the diesel fuel reimbursements between shippers and carriers. The tool can replace a national average price calculation to determine the reimbursement cost, which is not always accurate since it does not account for the specifics, such as time and geography, for freight movements.

Balzola adds the company does more than just manage fuel and works to help customers avoid unnecessary waste and expense from supply chains while strengthening shipper and carrier relationships, which leads to further reduced costs in bringing products to market.

‘Hotbed for talent’

Last fall, the Greater Green Bay Chamber brought together leaders from local transportation and logistics businesses for a forum where Armstrong says they discussed how to leverage the cluster and “really put Green Bay on the map.”

Raising the profile of what’s here can help attract industry-related startups, she adds. “Let’s say you are in St. Louis and you have a tech solution for managing supply chains. You decide to move to Green Bay since there are so many other businesses in this industry space and the knowledge base and funding are here,” Armstrong says. “It also means there are more experienced professionals here that you may be able to attract to your business.”

Breakthrough’s Balzola says Green Bay is respected in the transportation industry as a “hotbed for talent. Having such a talented group of transportation professionals in the area is certainly a benefit to us and other organizations when it comes to attracting and retaining the type of people who have the ability to transform our industry.”

Ericksrud relates he used to work in the automotive industry, and while in Detroit, cars were the first thing everyone talked about. “In Green Bay, besides the Packers, people talk about logistics,” he says. “There are software vendors here and we have that strong knowledge and industry background. It’s definitely something people out of the area take notice of.”

As companies seek to attract talent, Armstrong says being part of a local cluster can be a big plus. “You may have someone from outside the region looking at a career opportunity at one company, but the deciding factor is that there are other businesses here and you can see there are other potential places to grow.”

Looking to the future, Armstrong expects to see more local jobs created in the industry. “Transportation and logistics is the No. 1 industry for job growth in the region. There’s a lot of potential,” she says.

By the Numbers

Here are some key statistics involving transportation and logistics in the Green Bay area:

11,000 transportation and logistics jobs
No. 1 area of job growth
1% of all U.S. transportation and logistics jobs are in Green Bay
18th-largest employment concentration in the transportation and logistics industry in the nation
642 transportation and logistics companies are located here
Schneider, which is headquartered in Green Bay, is the 16th-largest logistics company in the country

Source: Greater Green Bay Chamber