NC 100: Insightful leadership

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By Jane Duckwall

PAUL THOMPSON: CULTURAL LEADER OF THE YEAR

In the Catawba County city that has suffered some tough economic blows in the last decade, Paul Thompson has emerged as a strong advocate for Hickory and a talented entrepreneur with a major logistics company. He founded Transportation Insight to help manufacturers, distributors and retailers reduce shipping costs and improve customer satisfaction.

While Transportation Insight initially served less-than-a-truckload and small parcel shippers, it now covers all transportation modes. Annual revenue is about $1.1 billion with the company making the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing companies for nine consecutive years. Clients have included American Tire Distributors, Snyder’s-Lance and Valdese Weavers,  according to a 2014 report by market researcher Armstrong & Associates. The company’s growth plan forecasts revenue could top $3.5 billion by 2020, including potential acquisitions.

Thompson, 53, credits the company’s employees for its success. Instead of building a new corporate headquarters on a suburban tract owned by the company, he opted to help revitalize Hickory’s center city by turning the historic Lyerly Mill into a new campus. The 1930s  hosiery mill was restored to include 70,000 square feet of office space and amenities supporting healthy lifestyle choices. The campus has a cafeteria and an athletic field, and plans are underway for a gymnasium, basketball court and workout facilities.

“Many young adults today no longer value suburban living and instead are seeking a downtown work/life experience within a revitalized, livable community where associates can experience daily outdoor living and recreation programs,” Thompson said when the project was announced in 2014. “Transportation Insight remains committed to Hickory, to our community and to the next generation of young working Americans.” Thompson was unavailable for comment for this story.

Thompson, who graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in industrial engineering in 1986, helped establish Appalachian State University’s Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship. He also helped the university create a discipline in supply-chain management at the Walker College of Business.

He serves on the boards of the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce and the Boone-based nonprofit Wine to Water, which uses proceeds from wine sales to provide clean drinking water for people around the world. He is a strategic adviser to various churches in the Hickory area, and he served as board chairman of Samaritan’s Feet, which Transportation Insight supports by providing free logistics and transportation services to deliver shoes to impoverished children.


Chairman Transportation Insight, Hickory

Helps clients improve transportation efficiency

EMPLOYEES: 417

COMPANY FOUNDED: 1999

NOTABLE: Headquarters is located in a rehabbed hickory hosiery mill


For the NC 100 list

For the first time, companies nominated individuals in six areas: Click below to read each profile.

Dealmaker: Eric Pike

Chief financial officer: Julie Richter

Innovator: Brendan Morrissey

Leader of the future: Wes Carter

Technologist: Charles Kauffman

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