The American Jobs Plan: America’s Infrastructure Imperatives
Check your politics at the door.
Mike Williams | President, AGX Freight
We have a lot of bridges to mend in our country. I mean, literally, a lot of bridges. The current administration’s infrastructure initiative, The American Jobs Plan, proposes to fix over 10,000 bridges in the US, including a focus on the ten most economically significant in need of reconstruction.
America is at a crossroads. Our country has failing roads and bridges and the proposed infrastructure initiative is an invitation to pick up a shovel and begin the hard work needed to turn things around. It might also represent the best chance we have to reinforce our democracy.
Our country is resilient when setbacks happen and we are courageous in the face of adversity. When our backs are against the wall, whether it’s a threat to our national security, natural catastrophe or disease, together, we have achieved more collectively than we could have as individuals. A great example of this is the response of our supply chain to covid-19 related challenges over the last year. Not only did the freight sector recover quickly and thrive as more Americans shopped from home, but we helped deploy nearly 275 million total vaccine doses in a matter of months.
The pandemic showed us that our reliance on commerce and the strength of our supply chain does not have to be diminished by a global health catastrophe. If anything, it clarified what we in the transportation industry already knew, that the economy and more broadly speaking, the livelihood of Americans are dependent on a fully functioning and safe transportation sector. Now that we are transitioning from lock-down to something approaching pre-pandemic norms of living, we should consider the benefit of focusing our efforts and investment on the health of our national infrastructure.
If we think of America as a living organism, then its network of highways and roads are the circulatory system. The transportation & logistics industry is the heartbeat of our country, and we should no more neglect our highways, bridges, roads, tunnels and waterways than we would our own organs. There are achievable gains to be had by investing in our physical infrastructure. The most recent Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, published by the American Society of Civil Engineers, states that “40% of the (road) system is now in poor or mediocre condition”. Moreover, “47% of the nation’s urban interstates are experiencing congestion during peak hours, and 30% of trips taken are impacted by severe or extreme congestion”. Fixing our roads will improve safety for motorists and pedestrians as well as our quality of life by shortening travel and delivery times.
A national infrastructure plan as proposed by the current administration will create jobs. An investment in our roads and bridges leads to a healthier transportation sector that currently employs nearly 10% of the US workforce, according to US Dept of Labor data. There are few things more rewarding in life than the sense of accomplishment that comes from an honest day’s work. Jobs that earn a living-wage empower people to bootstrap themselves out of poverty. Our sector has a great opportunity to help the economically disenfranchised, including the millions of Americans who lost jobs last year.
We recognize that it will take more than a reliance on public expenditures to course correct, and it’s why we recognize and applaud the great work performed by nonprofits such as Corporate America Supports You and Operation New Hope. Both organizations provide no-cost training and placement services to their constituents, for the benefit of those they serve and the employers they partner with. A healthy and sustainable economy will require increased cooperation between public, private and nonprofit entities.
The American Jobs Plan signals an attachment point for us to build bridges in a truly American way that exemplifies our shared values of patriotism, hard work and equal opportunity to achieve prosperity. We acknowledge that determining how to fund the program will be challenging for our lawmakers. We support their commitment to work in good faith towards initiatives like this one that build hope and unity among all Americans.
We love our Chamber, we love our city, and we love logistics at AGX. The politicians in Washington, now that’s a different kind of love story. In June of this year I had the opportunity to participate in a “fly-in” to DC with the Transportation Intermediaries Association. We chased our elusive Florida representatives around the capitol all day advocating for commonsense legislation for a national carrier selection standard for brokers. DC is an amazing place to visit if you can’t make it down to the Florida Everglades.
Every step we take has a purpose and an effect. Success and happiness, good health, meaningful relationships at work and at home.
Some of us will sacrifice too much for our mission, and others not enough. Finding a productive, satisfying balance between your unbridled aspirations and relaxing on the beach or hiking the Grandfather Trail in NC or whatever your heart desires is a personal decision for each of us.
Jack Welch, former legendary CEO at GE, and one of my favorites, said “there is no such thing as work-life balance. There are work life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.” Forget about all the others, study Jack Welch’s principles of business organization leadership and Jack will set you straight.
That being said, the freight logistics business takes no prisoners. Freight Life is 24/7/365. Its global. Its multi-modal. The speed at which data moves surpasses human pace. Big Data, Predictive analytics…the automation revolution is threatening entire segments of the supply chain. But freight is freight. A container of lawn furniture from Asia will always take about 38 days to reach JaxPort through the Panama Canal. The speed limit for big trucks will remain 65, even if R2D2 is driving.
Nevertheless, freight logistics remains a marketplace of opportunity for people who like to work collaboratively with others, innovate solutions for their customers, and determine the size of their own slice of the pie. Its intensely capitalistic, and highly attractive to entrepreneurs.
AGX is both a motor carrier and a broker, that makes us a logistics company. Through our network of relationships, we help freight professionals on their mission to achieve their greatest success. We are a safe zone, a sanctuary of sorts, for people of any persuasion, who want to chase the biggest paycheck they’ve ever seen or not. Work 7 days a week, or 4 days a week, it is a choice. Remember what Jack said, life choices have consequences.
AGX offers an operating platform, including Finance, Technology, Risk and Insurance, and outsourced business administration services, from which freight professionals and their teams can launch their own business, chart their own course, and achieve their own missions. We offer scale in critical back office services while our network remains focused on sales and freight logistics execution.
We measure our success exclusively by the quality of our engagement with customer service excellence, which includes continuous communication with the freight professionals who trust us with their business, and of course cash flow. All of the spin, marketing and buzz words don’t mean much without cash flow.
Our corporate team in Jacksonville is one of the all-time greats: it includes a winning combination of capable, collaborative, and frankly, very likable people. I predict that they will all earn gold watches and have their pictures on the AGX Wall of Fame before all is said and done. In a nutshell, they are individually and collectively energized to create and sustain great value in our network relationships.
Together with our network, we provide truckload, including vans and flatbeds, specialized and heavy haul, dedicated shuttle and yard management, highway logistics, railroad intermodal logistics, and with a shout out of gratitude to our friends at Jax Global Cargo, Robert Fox and Chris Sloope, we offer warehousing, foreign trade zone capabilities, and international logistics and freight forwarding.
The future is bright at AGX and we look forward to doing our part to make Jacksonville “America’s Logistics Center.”
John Edwards is a long-time partner with AGX. We recently spoke to him about his experience.
How long have you been in the transportation business? And in those years, how long have you been in the chassis stack business?
I started in the business in 1989, as a salaried employee for my uncle’s business in Savannah, GA. We were moving project cargo for the new Toyota and Nissan plants in America.
My uncle went out of business and my brother Scott and I were out of a job. I went to work as an agent in Savannah for Ace Transportation out of Lafayette, LA. At that time, the agency model was a new concept. We wound up working as an independent agent for GT Worldwide Transport in 1999.
We stayed there around 5 years and started moving chassis in 2001. I love this business and this specific niche. I’ve built solid relationships with carriers, suppliers and the depots where units are generally picked up from.
I’ve built a strong rapport. Because of it, I get calls for many special needs loads because my team and I get the job done!
What’s your favorite part of the transportation industry?
I like the current trend. ELD’s, safer trucks, stronger rates, and high-demand. Finally, we’re earning what we’re worth.
There were many years where the shippers were beating us up, and we had to work twice as hard to get half as far.
What’s the craziest story you have since becoming a transportation professional?
Bringing my brother back into the business with me in 2009, after being out of the industry for 5 years. I knew he was unhappy where he was. I talked with him and brought him back into the fold.
Scott is my right-hand man. I couldn’t do what I’m doing without him, his support, and his knowledge.
Where do you see your agency in the next 5 years?
I see our agency generating $15 million, being in a larger office space with upwards of 15 employees and having an expanded presence in the South Atlantic market!
I’d like to add, there are now so many companies that offer an agent program. I worked with several over the years. What sets AGX apart from the others I’ve worked with is their team and the day in and day out respect they demonstrate for my agency. From business support to customer billing and AP, to carrier onboarding, to new driver recruiting and onboarding, to technology systems and support, AGX is built the right way. Mike Williams has put together an incredible team and system, giving us exactly what AGX promised, the tools and support to continue our growth. Thank you to the entire AGX team for their support!
CHARLESTON / TLC EVENT I’d like to give a shout out to the Transportation & Logistics Council. Their Annual Conference in Charleston, South Carolina, March 18-21 was great.
The 44th edition held up its reputation as a compelling learning forum. It covered a broad range of both practical and technical aspects of freight safety and risk management.
I really enjoyed reconnecting with Bob Voltman, President and CEO at Transportation Intermediaries Association. Bob is a tireless advocate and educator for freight intermediaries in the D.C. swamp.
Overall, the conference attracts attendees that include skilled transportation attorneys, insurance executives, underwriters, adjusters, freight security specialists, including law enforcement officials, freight brokers, and motor carriers.
Sound boring? Mix in the procurement teams from dozens of diverse buyers and sellers of freight, and it will keep you going all day. Along with myself, AGX was represented by James Bagwell, our senior vice-president sales.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that it was in the beautiful city of Charleston. Here are a couple of highlights from the conference:
“Overreaching (contract) terms can sink your ship.”
- It is clear that the experts, mostly attorneys and insurance adjusters, place significant importance on what the transportation and/or insurance contracts actually say regarding a loss event.
- My take is contract matter and reasonable contract terms allocating appropriate risks should be the goal. Overreaching terms can sink your ship.
- SensiGuard’s Supply Chain Intelligence Center reports that recorded cargo thefts in the U.S. dropped 15% in 2017 versus 2016.
- I think the statistic makes sense. Freight distribution has become more regionalized, meaning the carrier is in possession of the freight for shorter periods of time and distance.
- The Sanitary Food Transportation Act of 2005 and the FDA Food Modernization Act of 2011 are well intended, but carry potentially onerous compliance burdens for brokers.
- I believe carriers need to step up their game and increase training for their drivers and quality of equipment. Or we’re all in trouble.
CHOPPER / BRAMLETT – How many of you saw my motorcycle picture last week?
We re-posted the 2016 pic in honor of our own Jon Bramlett, vice-president of operations. The chopper actually belongs to him, an avid rider.
My picture represents the only safe way I know how to ride. A couple of weeks ago, Jon laid the chopper down on A1A headed to bike week in Daytona.
Thank God Jon’s injuries were not life-threatening. Big Jon has vowed to get back on and ride again – after his broken leg and ribs heal. In case you missed it, here it is again:
RESULTS MATTER – We started AGX in mid-2016 with ambitious goals.
As some of you know from your own experiences, starting a new business is a tough climb. It’s even tougher doing it in the highly competitive U.S. freight transportation and logistics markets.
We finished 2017 up 167% over our start-up year. For 2018, our preliminary first-quarter results are up 102% versus last year.
AGX is definitely headed in the right direction as we move forward in our second full year.
Here’s how we’re doing it:
- We transitioned to a new cloud-based TMS application and development partner.
- AGX refinanced our capital structure, adding financial depth to ensure access to future needs.
- We added strong sales and operations specialists to our network, representing truckload, less than truckload, expedited, dedicated, and managed yard services.
We expect 2018 to be a solid growth story at AGX and hope you see the same for your business, whatever segment it may be. If you’d like to learn more about our company, please contact us with your questions and comments.
NETWORKING – I don’t know about you, but networking is a tough forum. I’m just not very good at it. Its fight or flight for me.
On March 29, I fought the good fight. I attended the TCJax Membership Drive event at TopGolf in Jacksonville. Pretty good turn out.
It’s always good to see a few familiar faces, like Linda Carrion from Jax Global Cargo, Bill Dorazio from Grimes Companies and Lisa Diaz from JaxPort, while meeting new people. As for the golf itself, I finished dead last in the one game I played, oh well, there’s always next time.
Mike Williams, President
It seems clear that every type of business relies on customers. They build a market reputation from many factors and thereby earn an appropriate measure of “customer goodwill.”
From a merger and acquisitions view, Investopedia defines “goodwill” as an intangible asset.
Meaning the value represented by the quality of the company’s brand name, customer base and relations and employee relations as reflected by the perceived total value of the company in excess of book value and any patents or proprietary technology (paraphrased).
The M&A definition reflects the outcome or result of a company’s efforts. This is typically measured at the time of a sale of the company. Of the same nature but perhaps different, the “goodwill” on my mind is built at the day to day operational level.
In my view, goodwill is better defined by the actual quality of the customer experience.
This is evident by whether the company carries an earned reputation for professionalism, exceptional service levels, and administrative efficiency. It includes the seamless exchange of transactional records and financial data.
It is not how the company views its customers, but rather, it is how the customers view the company.
In its most practical sense, it boils down to this question. Will the customer return tomorrow if he or she has an expectation for the same service quality received today?
Or measured another way, does the customer experience today drive return business tomorrow? That’s it. Pretty simple, right?
What factors influence how our customers view the quality of their experience with us? Consider these:
- Our ability to demonstrate the competence to understand the customer’s business and service requirements.
- The ability to offer/provide services in a clear pricing model.
- The ability to accurately exchange operations data in real time.
- Our ability to support efficient administrative engagement.
- The consistency of our performance on a day in and day out basis.
These among others determine whether a freight customer will come back tomorrow.
Many professionals in the transportation and logistics space can recount years and years of accomplishments. They’ve crossed the span of the entire market, less than truckload, intermodal, truckload, ocean, air, specialized, heavy haul, and even warehousing.
Some prefer to remain highly focused on a single or just a few modes or service lines. Others enjoy the breadth of having all arrows in their quiver.
Regardless whether you sell one, some, or “all of the above” service lines, you know your customer’s businesses. You know what it takes to meet your customer’s service requirements, from both experience and the whiteboard.
You have seen it all. From the challenges of your efforts toward service excellence and probably hurting your head trying to understand how your company’s technology platform can support it all.
When your company asks you to sign some form of a non-disclosure, non-solicitation, and/or a non-compete agreement, you could be trading away your own piece of the goodwill pie.
Imagine that next great job opportunity with a company. They’ve impressed you enough to consider a change, a pay increase, and the path to career growth and success in exchange for your goodwill. What do you do?
What is your goodwill worth? A Paycheck and Bonus? Job security? Benefits? Friends?
At AGX Freight Group, our sales professionals own their customer goodwill or “book of business.”
Our business model recognizes the time, sweat, and effort these professionals invest to build customer goodwill. Their relationships follow them for their professionalism, the knowledge of their customer’s businesses, their integrity, and a genuine sense of relationship “goodwill.”
For us, our mission is simple.
We provide a versatile platform and high reputation for finance, risk management/safety and compliance, technology, and transaction processing. Sales and operations specialists can launch and run their business to achieve their greatest success.
All without fear of losing their customer goodwill, because we know it’s the most valuable business asset they own.
Mike Williams, President
The AGX crossbar award is given to the individual who has best exemplified a commitment to the AGX team and brand by his or her performance. Renea has been with the company since inception in 2016 and is our Billing & Settlements Manager.
Way to go Renea!