VOL. 122 | NO. 150 | Friday, August 10, 2007
'Connect the Dots'
By Eric Smith
FOCAL POINT: Trucks roll through the International Port of Memphis on Thursday morning. How these trucks - and trains, planes and automobiles - maneuver through town is a focus of the newly created Center for Intermodal Freight Transportation Studies and Center for Advanced Intermodal Technologies at the University of Memphis. -- Photo Illustration By Philip Thompson
A longtime transportation company is helping a pair of nascent transportation centers hit the ground running.
The DeHart Group, whose roots date back six generations to 1884, has donated $100,000 to support the University of Memphis' newly formed Center for Intermodal Freight Transportation Studies (CIFTS) and Center for Advanced Intermodal Technologies (CAIT).
Dubbed The DeHart Transportation Fund, the money will be used to help the centers collaborate with various agencies such as the Memphis Regional Chamber, Delta Regional Authority and Memphis Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to study the region's logistics, transportation and distribution industries.
As well as financial assistance, DeHart will offer expertise on radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, one of its fortes. In turn, the company will benefit from studies completed at the centers.
"We think it's a great partnership," said DeHart marketing director Chris DeHart. "We wanted to give back to the university. And because Memphis has always been connected with transportation, logistics and distribution, we're trying to expand on that into the future."
A little lift from Uncle Sam
CIFTS and CAIT were created earlier this year thanks to the August 2005 federal transportation bill Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which gave $286.4 billion for surface transportation programs.
The government earmarked $7 million for the two U of M programs, which are headed by Memphis civil engineering professor Dr. Martin Lipinski.
"We want to help continue building Memphis as a total distribution center. This starts to open doors. As my brother says, it's about connecting the dots. There's a lot of dots in Memphis, and where he sees the future of Memphis going, we think we can help be a part of that."
Marketing director of The DeHart Group
Lipinski said the centers were looking for corporate sponsorship and matching dollars while DeHart president and CEO Tom DeHart, a U of M graduate, was looking to establish a transportation fund.
"Tom was interested in ways that he could contribute to his alma mater and in ways that he could help," Lipinski said. "It just happened at the same time that we're in the process of developing the transportation centers. And since his business is trucking, we thought this would be a great, great partnership."
Lipinski said the money will be targeted for specific tasks, although those are not yet determined. He added that DeHart has asked the centers to research specific transportation areas in which the company operates.
But, as Chris DeHart pointed out, what benefits the family-owned company will be a boon for any transportation-related business in the area.
"We want to help continue building Memphis as a total distribution center," said DeHart, also a U of M graduate. "This starts to open doors. As my brother says, it's about connecting the dots. There's a lot of dots in Memphis, and where he sees the future of Memphis going, we think we can help be a part of that."
The dynasty continues
Formed 123 years ago by Harry A. DeHart Sr., the multifaceted DeHart Group has evolved through many incarnations and expansions.
Today it manages logistics, finance, human resource/labor, technology and entertainment entities, but one of its focal points is RFID technology, which is a means of tracking and identifying products through electronic tags.
"Memphis is growing as a container transportation center, and it's one of the areas that we're getting into as far as container freight and yard management and security systems," Chris DeHart said.
"We're looking at the technology bent to it and how RFID might be able to tie into that down the road."
Thanks to RFID, the DeHart name is poised to last many more generations through the establishment of the DeHart Business Park, a 12.5-acre industrial site at the southwest corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Kansas Street.
The park will house logistics operations - with RFID as its core commodity - helping complement the creation of The DeHart Transportation Fund.
"It just grew from there. It was mutual," Chris DeHart said. "We see a lot of that going with a lot of the new, more advanced technologies and emerging trends in the transportation industry, so it kind of made sense for us to help support that and try to bring some business and work to the University of Memphis."
Lipinski said The DeHart Transportation Fund will aid the centers' study of the intermodal transportation network in the metropolitan area. It also will help Lipinski move forward with plans to hire an associate director.
"Within a couple of weeks I will have my right-hand person," he said.
Lipinski isn't the only supporter at the U of M. Dr. Shirley Raines, president of the university, touted the importance of DeHart 's
"(Tom DeHart's) willingness to open the doors of his businesses to us and also to contribute financially in a manner that will allow us to grow our research capacity is especially meaningful," Raines said in a statement.
More than anything, the money will give Lipinski, the U of M and the centers a leg up in further enhancing the Mid-South's role in all things transportation.
"We are building up expertise here in the university," Lipinski said. "We are building up some intellectual capital and data sources that can really contribute to making a difference and making more intelligent transportation decisions and economic development decisions in the region."