Inc. 5000 winners in the Upstate just keep on truckin’

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The week of Sept. 16 stands as a pivotal one on the calendar at UCW Logistics, the full-load freight broker that helps businesses ship, track, and deliver over-the-road merchandise across North America.

Hurricane Florence had slammed the Carolinas and the company’s Greenville headquarters was operating at a very brisk pace, remembers Evan Cramer, president of the third-party logistics firm, who said the slow-moving threat posed by the hurricane prompted his firm to “treat it like it’s going to have a big impact … so we were moving shipments up, pushing shipments back” even before Florence came ashore, he said.

After landfall, as flooding blocked roads and as cotton warehouses, some textile mills, and other businesses remained closed, Cramer and his team rescheduled deliveries and helped some of the company’s 254 shipping clients avoid unexpected storage charges.

As all that was happening, UCW held a series of meetings with McLeod Software, an industry vendor that was helping the firm go live with its new transportation-management system. Among other things, the system aggregates industry rates, tracks shipments, helps carriers keep loads full, and generates automated, granular reports of interest to customers. Transitioning customer data to the new system while addressing issues stemming from the hurricane created “double work” that left the staff “scrambling,” Cramer said.

By that point, the Aug. 15 announcement that UCW had placed 126th on this year’s Inc. 5000 list may have seemed like a distant memory.

Yet the recognition — a bit of a surprise to UCW’s management — still gives off a reassuring glow.

“It gives us a lot of credibility, for a lot of people” and will help the firm attract talent, forge closer ties with the carriers it hires, and strengthen its already strong relationships with shippers, Cramer said.

To qualify for the Inc. 5000, companies must be privately held, for-profit, and for this year’s list were ranked according to percentage of revenue growth from 2014 to 2017. UCW’s three-year growth stood at 3,116 percent.

UCW led a field of 17 companies in the Upstate that made the list.

Formed in late 2013, UCW owns no trucks or warehouses but focuses on solving “pain points” experienced by shippers, including their need to find safe and reliable carriers that can handle specific types of cargo, locate warehouses, and handle import-export issues.

“We made a decision, a strategic decision as a group, we would be really, really good at domestic truckload business and not just giving the best rates, but giving the best service with competitive rates,” Cramer said.

To that end, UCW has around 7,000 trucking companies in its database from which to choose, based on a shipper’s specific needs.

“The best truck, the best carrier to handle that business is not likely to be somebody knocking on their door,” Cramer said. “It might be a sole proprietor who has one truck. It might be somebody who has five trucks, or 10 trucks, on up to the big guys. Our relationship base is very broad, and that’s part of the value that we bring to our customers.”

To help carriers, especially smaller ones, meet expenses, they are paid within 48 hours or 15 days. Further, UCW asks carriers which routes they prefer so that “we can plug that business into them and they can retain and recruit drivers because they have consistency and reliability,” Cramer explained.

Through a text-to-phone system and with a driver’s consent, UCW can also shadow a truck’s current location up to the point of delivery, reducing any concerns felt by shippers.

Over the past five years, carriers partnering with UCW have hauled everything from electrical transmission equipment to flavored cigars from the Dominican Republic, said Steve Kitterman, the firm’s chief commercial officer.

“We pick them up in Miami and move them into Jacksonville. About six or seven loads a day, they’re coming up,” he said. “We have some companies that do packaging for retail consumables. That’s going nuts.”

Other key clients whose loads are increasing include Milliken, the diversified industrial manufacturer, and Hubbell Lighting.

With impressive three-year growth, UCW is committed to expanding, Cramer and Kitterman said. The company currently employs five people at its headquarters at 325 W. McBee Ave. and 17 at its Winston-Salem, North Carolina, office.

“Expect the Winston-Salem office to be probably twice that big, probably in the 30 to 35 range, in the next two years,” Cramer predicted.

The Greenville office will at least double in size, he said. And during the next five years, the company expects to add two more offices, most likely in the Southeast.

On Aug. 16, one day after Inc. magazine announced the country’s fastest-growing companies, a long-planned dinner was held in Winston-Salem to discuss UCW’s mission, its 10-year plan, and core values. At the last minute, a final slide was added to the presentation.

“We were able to pop it up and pop up the ‘126’ on the screen and what was neat is we had people in that dinner … taking pictures of the screen and posting it to social media right then and there,” Cramer said.

“We did $400,000 that first year and then in 2017 we did about $12 million. That’s where that percentage growth comes from,” Cramer said of UCW’s superior Inc. 5000 ranking.

The top 500

In addition to UCW, three other Upstate firms made it into the Inc. 500, the most-coveted group within the full list.

With three-year growth of 3,055 percent, The Hiring Group, a technical staffing and recruiting firm, placed at No. 130.

At No. 387, ARCpoint Occupational Solutions is a third-party administrator for drug and alcohol testing and employment screening. The company aggregates a variety of customized data from partner-providers. It achieved 1,265 percent growth.

And at No. 490, Clear Touch Interactive, a provider of multi-touch flat panels for education, government and business, weighed in at 1,036 percent.

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