Saturday, April 20, 2024

Leaders of North Carolina’s logistics industry discuss their work amid unprecedented challenges

Some students who walked across the stage in May to receive degrees at N.C. Central University in Durham and Fayetteville State University wound up borrowing caps and gowns from alumni. The supplier, Indianapolis-based Herff Jones, struggled to fill orders filed more than a month earlier because of material and labor shortages.

That is among a million examples of problems with the supply chain, a facet of the business world historically taken for granted. Now, shortages and delays related to goods and services affect and frustrate virtually every business and consumer. 

North Carolina has a big role in the global logistics industry because of its central location between the Northeast and Florida; ports in Wilmington and Morehead City; major regional airports in Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro; significant rail infrastructure; and a history of entrepreneurial trucking and other transportation companies. 

This story spotlights eight N.C. logistics industry leaders, representing global and local companies and institutions. Many of their businesses have benefited in recent years as digital commerce takes market share from traditional retailing and a robust economy has sparked strong demand. More consumers receive products at their front door rather than heading to a store, creating big opportunities for those involved in warehousing, brokering and delivering goods.

One beneficiary is GXO, a Connecticut-based logistics company that was spun off from XPO Logistics last year. Its North American operations center is in High Point, where Louis DeJoy operated New Breed Logistics before its 2014 sale to XPO. GXO now employs more than 800 people at the Guilford County site, and revenue gained 28% to $7.9 billion last year. 

It isn’t just the big cities benefiting from logistics, either. Railroad company CSX opened its Carolina Connector intermodal terminal in Rocky Mount last year. Mocksville gained about $100 million in corporate investment and added about 550 logistics-related jobs over the past year because of its location on Interstate 40 near Winston-Salem, according to Davie County economic development leaders.

Solving supply chain problems is a global challenge. According to several executives interviewed, the challenges won’t go away anytime soon.

Responses are edited for brevity and clarity.


Kevin Baker
executive director, Piedmont Triad Airport Authority

Baker joined the authority in 2008 after working for the Michael Baker International consulting provider, where his clients included the Greensboro airport. More than 9,000 employees work for various enterprises in the airport complex, including Honda Aircraft and Haeco. PTI made international headlines in January when Denver-based Boom Supersonic said it will build a $500 million assembly plant there.

The Pittsburgh native is a civil-engineering graduate of Lehigh University. The authority is a seven-member board with representatives from Greensboro, High Point, Winston-Salem, and Guilford and Forsyth counties.  

What is your most important duty?
Job creation.

Most fun part of the job?
Job creation! 

Key mentor?
My brother. He passed away in December following complications from a surgical procedure. He was a great human being. He was 21 years older than me and flew F-4s in Vietnam when I was a toddler. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross and went on to become a full-bird colonel, then served as a United Way executive in Hawaii.

Most important business decision in the past 5 years?
Spending huge amounts of money to get sites prepared speculatively for users.

Will supply chain issues persist beyond 2022?
I have to think that it’s going to take longer than the remainder of this year to sort this mess out.


Roy Cox
president, Best Logistics Group

The UNC Chapel Hill graduate became CEO in 2016 and oversees 400 trucks, 1,500 trailers and more than 500 employees. He has worked at Best for more than 25 years.

Originally from Sanford, Cox started as a dispatcher for Best Logistics Group in 1994 and worked his way up to president in 2016. He’s a former N.C. Trucking Association board chair.

What do you consider your most important duty?
Hiring the right people for the right roles is my most important duty.

Most fun part of the job?
Seeing the success of our people through creating new customer opportunities.

Key mentor?
My mentors include Best Logistics Chair David Reich Jr., who is our former CEO, and Mike Herman, who was president from 2009 to 2016.

Most important business decision in the past 5 years?
Removing businesses that weren’t in line with our overall business strategy and setting up Drive for $200 million in 2018. It was a company-wide plan that set a goal for $200 million in revenue by the end of 2021. We met that goal, so the new challenge is Drive for 300 by 2025, or $300 million by 2025.

Will supply chain issues persist
beyond 2022?
Supply chain issues will continue to be a major issue and persist well into 2023.


Brian Clark
executive director, North Carolina State Ports Authority

Clark is a New Jersey native and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy graduate who joined the state system in 2017 as chief operating officer. He succeeded Paul Cozza in January 2021. He previously was a senior manager at ports in Port Elizabeth, New Jersey, and Mobile, Alabama, and worked for APM Terminals and Sea Land Services.

About 220 employees work for the coastal ports in Wilmington and Morehead City and the Inland Port of Charlotte. More than 1,000 ships call on the ports annually. The authority is affiliated with the state government, though it doesn’t receive direct taxpayer subsidies.

What do you consider your most important duty?
Supporting the N.C. Ports team so that we can deliver on our mission to enhance the economy of North Carolina.

Most fun part of the job?
Working with the team to determine and accomplish capital investment needs, as well as identify unique solutions for our customers.

Key mentor?
Anthony Scioscia, one of the most well-known and respected leaders in the shipping industry.

Most important business decision in the past 5 years? 
The completion of the State Ports Authority’s 2021 Five-Year Strategic Plan. The development of this plan sets the path for our future. In particular, we saw the growth of cargo volumes and expansion of global coverage of vessel services. We also engaged and supported statewide economic development projects.  

Will supply chain issues persist beyond 2022?
Recent closures of major ports in China as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, continued high consumer demand and a lack of available capacity throughout the global supply chain will continue to have an impact for the foreseeable future. 


Bill Fraine
chief commercial officer, GXO
High Point

Fraine is a well-known logistics industry executive, having spent 20 years at FedEx during the Memphis, Tennessee-based company’s rapid growth in the 1980s and ‘90s. After holding other industry posts, he moved to North Carolina from Massachusetts in 2011 to join High Point-based New Breed Logistics as senior vice president of marketing and business development. 

After Greenwich, Connecticut-based XPO Logistics bought New Breed for $615 million in 2014, Fraine became division president and head of supply chain in America and Asia Pacific.

He was named to his current post as part of XPO’s August 2021 spinoff of GXO, which has about 890 locations in 27 countries. GXO has tripled its workforce to 3,900 over the past two years, Fraine told The Wall Street Journal in December.

What do you consider your most important duty?
My principal duty is ensuring GXO’s customers succeed, especially at such a pivotal point in supply chain development.

What’s the most fun part of the job?
Traveling around the globe, meeting with our industry-leading customers and visiting distribution centers, where dedicated GXO team members deliver game-changing solutions every day.

Key mentor?
My dad. He taught me at an early age what it meant to be responsible, reliable, honest and kind to every person I encounter.

Most important business decision in the past 5 years?
Joining GXO as the chief commercial officer, working alongside my executive teammates to build the world’s largest pure-play supply chain company and deliver industry-leading solutions to top global companies.


Ryan Legg
CEO, MegaCorp Logistics

Legg and his wife, Denise, founded the freight brokerage business in 2009. Denise Legg was initially CEO but took a step back to raise the couple’s two boys, at which point Legg gained the title. The West Virginia University graduate had previously worked for Cincinnati-based Total Quality Logistics. MegaCorp, which assigns truckload deliveries for clients, reported $700 million in revenue last year. It has more than 570 employees with plans to add another 300 over the next few years, aided by incentives from Wilmington and New Hanover County.

What do you consider your most important duty?
To make sure all employees are secure and able to support their families and to steer this company for future growth so we will be around for a long time.

Most fun part of the job?
Seeing employees succeed, buying new homes, cars, etc. Also seeing them start a family and raise their children.

Key mentor?
My father.

Most important business decision in the past 5 years?
Writing our own operating software.


Greg Gantt
CEO, Old Dominion Freight Line

The Appalachian State University graduate, who was a varsity collegiate wrestler, joined the company in 1994 and became the first non-Congdon family member to be CEO in 2018. He had been chief operating officer since 2011. The company had 2021 revenue of $5.26 billion, ranking second nationally to FedEx Freight among U.S. less-than-truckload carriers. Its 31% revenue growth last year was the largest among publicly traded truckers. Net income soared 54% to $1 billion. Gantt’s total compensation was $10.58 million last year, a 32% increase from 2020. 

Gantt declined to comment. 


Tom Maxwell
managing director, Mid-Atlantic hub, FedEx Express

A native of Indianapolis, Maxwell joined the Memphis, Tennessee-based logistics company as a senior engineer in 1995. He took his first position in the Carolinas as the senior manager of ramp operations in Raleigh in 2010. About 1,100 employees report to the Greensboro hub location. FedEx processes about 28 flights daily at Piedmont Triad International Airport.

What do you consider your most important duty?
Strategic planning for the FedEx Express Greensboro Hub Operation. I also consider the jobs that were and continue to be created in the community, the increase in flights at PTI due to the hub’s growth, and the expansion projects as important. FedEx Express has continued to hire personnel to support the increase in volume created by the pandemic’s impact on e-commerce. 

Most fun part of the job?
Watching the growth and development of the Greensboro hub location and its team members. This hub is the largest of the facilities in the Piedmont District, which includes 12 airport ramps in five states. They are all intertwined, and the success of the GSO Hub plays a huge part in the success of the district.  

Key mentor?
My father. He was a school teacher for 46 years, a veteran and the wisest man I have ever known.  

Most important business decision in the past 5 years?
I have promoted the growth at GSO, including the increase in the number of flights coming into PTI for FedEx. I also encourage our team members to strive to be their personal best.


Phil Peck
president, Epes Transport System

Peck oversees more than 1,700 employees for the company, which he joined as a driver 27 years ago. He’s originally from northern Virginia and is a graduate of Virginia Tech University. He started working in the trucking industry at age 16 and, after college, moved to North Carolina to continue that career and be with his college sweetheart, whom he later married.

Epes, which was started more than 90 years ago, named Peck to his current post in 2021 after he had been vice president of operations since 1995.

Reading, Pennsylvania-based Penske Logistics bought Epes Transport in 2018 when the N.C. company had about 1,100 drivers and annual revenue of about $400 million. It now has more than 1,600 drivers. 

What do you consider your most important duty?
Helping people grow their careers and maximize their ability to achieve results at the highest level possible.  

Most fun part of the job?
No days, weeks or months are the same. It’s an ever-evolving business, with increased challenges that require companies to be flexible, to adapt and to pivot their strategies in order to succeed.

Key mentor?
Britt Colley, our former president, had an untimely passing in 2017. He had the vision to hire me in 1995, the patience to help me learn from my mistakes and the willingness to give me enough rope that helped empower decisions.  

Most important business decision in the past 5 years?
Just about every decision that is included in the top five I have ever made has involved adding personnel and talent to the organization that drove greater results and pushed the rest of the team to improve performance. Talent is hard to find is an old adage, but the truth is more like “talent that changes your company results and/or furthers your company culture is the best investment for future success.”

Will supply chain issues persist beyond 2022?
Although there are some signs of softening in the U.S. economy, I don’t anticipate it will be enough to overcome the greater issues affecting supply chain capacity such as driver shortages and driver pay, disruption and uncertainty in the flow of goods from China, among others. During the second half of 2022 and into 2023, we may see some exits from the industry in a reversal of new carrier entrants over the past two years.



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