Despite tough times in the freight hauling business, a unit of the local logistics firm Trans-Trade Inc. is expanding in a big way.
The company, which is based at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, has a subsidiary called Alliance Brokers Inc. that has leased 292,500 square feet of speculative warehouse space at a building in the Alliance Global Logistics Hub in Fort Worth. It plans to more than triple in size by adding 20 full-time and 80 part-time jobs by June, when the company will occupy its new space.
Alliance Brokers currently has 10 employees offering transportation services throughout the country and to most foreign countries through a network of sales and handling agents, said Trans-Trade CEO Bruce Galbraith.
Trans-Trade President Jeff Bell says the company is consolidating two existing facilities at the Alliance development. One of those facilities is about 60,000 square feet and is used as a customs examination station where imported freight goes through the U.S. Customs Service process. The other is a 110,000-square-foot shop that handles services such as warehouse distribution, fulfillment and reverse logistics.
Among other things, the company’s new space will enable Alliance Brokers to handle containers weighing as much as 56,000 pounds, up from a current 40,000- to 45,000-pound limit now.
To help get the deal done, Dallas-based Hillwood, which runs the AllianceTexas development, joined with BNSF Railway Co. and the City of Fort Worth to take private two roads that separate Alliance Brokers’ new building from the entrance to the nearby Alliance BNSF Intermodal Facility, which is just a quarter of a mile away.
Officials say the newly private roads, Container Way and parts of Intermodal Parkway, won’t have the weight restrictions that public roads do, enabling Alliance Brokers to transport more of everything, from tile to steel products, in the containers that it moves. That, in turn, will purportedly give the company’s customers the ability to shave 20% to 30% on transportation costs and add other efficiencies by using fewer containers to move their freight.
“Our focus will be on import-export traffic to and from Asian markets,” said Galbraith. “We will be bringing container loads from Asia via (BNSF) to the Alliance (Global Logistics Hub).”
In addition, Bell says the new shop will be tapping new markets in Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma because of its central location.
“This operation will be a one of a kind, the first inland port to have a (heavy container) operation,” Bell says. “Typically you see that in Houston or on the East or West Coast, not at an inland port like Fort Worth.”
By adding capacity for heavy containers at Alliance, Trans-Trade is positioning itself for what the economy will look like on the other side of the current recession, said Terrance Pohlen, associate professor of logistics and Director of the Center for Logistics Education and Research at the University of North Texas.
“We are going to more of an intermodal system in the United States,” Pohlen says. “They’re taking advantage of the economies of lower freight rates of this intermodal system.”
New customers, new facility
Once at the new facility, loads will be broken down into smaller, lighter loads to be moved via truck or rail to retail locations or distribution centers. At the same time, products that are being moved out of the area will be brought in by truck or rail and combined into large, heavy containers for shipment.
Driving the expansion, according to Galbraith, are new business opportunities that Trans-Trade and Alliance Brokers are seeing. Those opportunities are coming from new customers that believe Alliance Brokers’ new facility will give them cost advantages, he says. “A lot of companies are looking at the Dallas-Fort Worth area for distribution and logistics.”
Tony Creme, a Hillwood vice president who handled the lease, says the new shop offers other services as well, such as a “centralized examination station,” which essentially allows containers to bypass customs at ports such as those in Los Angeles and Long Beach and Oakland, Calif., and instead clear customs at Alliance. “It’s a quicker form of transportation,” he says.
In addition, the Alliance land is in a Foreign Trade Zone, which allows the federal government to reduce costs associated with importing goods into the United States, says Steve Boecking, a vice president at Hillwood Properties, a division of Hillwood.
Foreign Trade Zone status “provides significant economic advantages to importers,” Boecking says.
According to Creme, the Alliance Brokers lease will fill up about 60% of the 526,500-square-foot building that the company is moving into. He characterizes the lease as a “long-term” deal, but declines to be more specific.
“They have expansion rights to the building,” along with land next door to the facility, Creme says. “We built a lot of flexibility in the lease for them to grow their business.”
Because of all the moving parts in the transaction, it took a while to get the deal done.
“We worked on this project for over a year,” Creme says.