Cotton helped make Dunavant Enterprises into a worldwide brand, but the family and company have maintained a long-term association with the logistics industry.
Col. William Pemberton Dunavant first ventured into logistics shortly after the Civil War – decades before Dunavant entered into the cotton trade – when he was involved in building short-line railroads in Mississippi.
Mark Genereaux, left, is vice president of business development and marketing for Dunavant Logistics Group. Don Lake is vice president of global operations.
(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)
After selling its cotton business in 2009, Dunavant retained the logistics operations it cultivated by moving cotton from the U.S. to the rest of the world.
“Over the years, as we grew the company bigger and bigger, we were differentiating ourselves from others moving a bale of cotton from Clarksdale, Miss., to Shanghai, China, on the logistics piece of it,” said Don Lake, vice president of global operations for Dunavant Logistics Group, a subsidiary of Dunavant Enterprises. “We were absolutely squeezing every piece of that logistics cost out of it.”
Today, Dunavant Logistics Group is experiencing strong gains – revenues increased 34 percent between the end of fiscal years 2012 and 2013 – through organic growth and entering new logistics sectors.
“In 2009, we started out with zero customers and zero containers to be moved, and at the end of 2013, we moved right at 14,000 containers,” said Lake. “It was 100 percent organic. We just hit the streets and started talking to people we knew.”
This year, Dunavant Logistics Group completed its first assignment in the project cargo sector, which involves the movement of large pieces of heavy equipment that often need to be disassembled for transportation and reassembled after delivery.
Dunavant Logistics Group moved a massive paper-manufacturing machine that measured two football fields in length from Washington State to South Korea. The company cleaned, itemized, packaged and shipped the two-story-tall machine, including one piece that weighed 190,000 pounds, from the Pacific Northwest to Asia.
“It required all phases of transportation and consultation,” said Lake. “It was an all-hands-on-deck project from start to finish.”
The company has developed a strong expertise in commodities exports, including cotton, lumber, hay and grain.
With 495 million pounds shipped last year, cotton remains Dunavant Logistics Group’s main export product.
“A lot of those customers are coming to us because they know we know how to move cotton from any cotton-producing area to any cotton-spinning area,” said Lake. “Coming from the cotton world, it took our customers a while to grasp the notion we weren’t in the cotton-trading business anymore. We had to convince them that we weren’t their competitor anymore.”
On the import side, Dunavant Logistics Group specializes in the automotive aftermarket sector, building products, and consumer products such as sporting goods, furniture and ceiling fans.
Dunavant Logistics Group provides freight-forwarding services for companies that may have their own contract with shipping lines but might need assistance with customs, documentation and logistics within the U.S. The company can also act as the de facto logistics arm of smaller firms, combining their shipments with a larger load to negotiate a better price.
“For the small- to medium-sized shippers, we really become their logistics department,” said Mark Genereaux, vice president of business development with Dunavant Logistics Group.
Dunavant Logistics Group has also made strategic inroads into key markets, expanding its corporate footprint and the services it offers clients.
In May 2013, Dunavant Logistics Group opened a new office in Phoenix, allowing the company to bring its shipping and supply chain management operations to the Southwest. And last month, the company added a warehouse in Pasadena, Texas, just a few miles from the Port of Houston.
Dunavant Logistics Group is supported by a sister company, Dunavant Transportation Group. Dunavant Transportation acquired Sea Lane Express, which specializes in regional trucking and intermodal drayage operations, in 2011. The company currently has terminal operations in intermodal and port cities, including Atlanta and Savannah, Ga., Norfolk, Va., Charleston, S.C., Charlotte and Wilmington, N.C., and Nashville.
“We were a shipper, so we think and act like a shipper,” Genereaux said, “and we have an asset-based side in Dunavant Transportation Group and a non-asset based side in Dunavant Logistics Group, so we have all of those skill sets under one roof, which translates into real value for our customers.”