Planes, trains and automobiles aren’t necessarily the main components of the logistics industry.
Allan Bowden, who works for UWT Logistics and is serving as 2013 president of the Memphis World Trade Club, said relationships keep the industry moving as much as the many varied vehicles associated with it.
“Our company was looking for ways to get involved in the community,” said Bowden, referring to UWT Logistics. “My partner, John Ozier, is heavily involved in the (Greater) Memphis Chamber. I chose the Memphis World Trade Club to devote my attention to. We use both avenues to network.”
People, he said, fuel deals and partnerships the way diesel fuels trucks. In fact, networking was how Bowden found his way into the world of logistics five years ago.
Originally from Memphis, Bowden got a bachelor’s degree in religion and a master’s degree in counseling in California, taking time off to teach school and coach soccer in Memphis in between.
After a stint of teaching and coaching in Birmingham, Ala., he returned to Memphis in 2008 to seek employment in the business world to better support his growing family.
“I was going the education route and it’s a good deal because I can always go back to it if I ever need to,” Bowden said. “A lot of times your better teachers come from the business world and have a lot of wisdom to impart.”
He took a job with a logistics company but joined UWT Logistics after one year. The Ozier family, owners of the UWT Logistics, were family friends.
Then attorney Cannon Allen, who’s son played on a soccer team Bowden coached previously, introduced Bowden to the Memphis World Trade Club and helped him run for the group’s board.
UWT Logistics has been in operation since 1937. It was bought by the Oziers in the early 1990s and has had lengthy relationships with companies like Energizer.
One of Bowden’s chief projects has been developing the business growth of United Warehouse Transportation, a new carrier company started by UWT Logistics after purchasing one of their competitors.
Now with its own fleet of 25 trucks, both owned and leased, and about 40 trailers, the company offers services in both asset-based transportation and managed logistics.
“Initially we were only a broker,” Bowden said. “There’s probably more profit in the managed side of things because you don’t have the overhead of the trucks and so forth, but both sides are going well.
“We’ve grown the business from about a million dollars total revenue to about $5 million total revenue in one year. We quadrupled the amount of business that we inherited when we bought that company.”
Clients for the company are found on all layers of the logistics industry, not just manufacturers who need to move products. In some cases, other carriers use UWT to support their own operations, and out-of-town freight forwarders call when they need trucks in the Memphis area.
On the managed side, UWT Logistics manages freight using other companies’ trucks and equipment.
“That way someone who should really be a competitor becomes a partner,” Bowden said.
That’s also the idea behind the Memphis World Trade Club, which is made up of 300 members of the industry including air, rail, truck, and ocean shippers, bankers, attorneys, and financial advisers.
Bowden worked his way up through the board offices and was elected to president in November.
The club hosts monthly luncheons for members usually with a guest speaker. This year got off to a rocky start when a luncheon featuring Washington logistics industry advocate Melzie Wilson had to be canceled due to the threat of ice.
Bowden is using his first month of office to survey members on the overall mission of the group and the best means of achieving it.
“We’re going to talk about if somebody asks you the question, what really defines us as a club?”
The group is also preparing to roll out its own mobile app in March or April so that members can connect easily from smartphones.
In October, the group will host its largest event of the year, the two-day Southeast Freight Conference, which culminates in the Port of New Orleans Night, a lavish gala for about 1,000 at The Peabody hotel.
Both the conference and Port Night help members reacquaint themselves with clients and each other in the hope that new opportunities for business will come to light, said Bowden.
“The personal interaction – that’s how you grow your business and your club,” Bowden said.