Forward Air Corp. has leased 37,717 square feet in Bethlehem as part of a bigger push into the Lehigh Valley and key Pennsylvania industrial market.
The building at 2675 Commerce Center Blvd. is owned by J.G. Petrucci Co. For the past 11 years, Forward (NASDAQ: FWRD) outsourced its logistics operations to a third party in the Lehigh Valley but decided the timing was right to establish its own employee-based facility in the market, said Thomas Schmitt, CEO.
“This is really a huge move for us,” he said. “We love to go into emerging, high growth areas and this location is perfect to support the Forward network. It will increase our coverage across Pennsylvania and relieve some of the pressure off of Philadelphia.”
The company’s Philadelphia operations are based in 1000 Henderson Blvd. in Folcroft. It also maintains locations in Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.
Forward Air’s expansion in the Lehigh Valley highlights the importance of Pennsylvania as an industrial market and its role in the movement of goods throughout the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and points west.
Forward Air is a $1.4 billion freight and logistics company. In the Lehigh Valley, the company plans to start out with 10 employees and two to three trucks a day and continue to expand from there. “We do expect 10% to 15% of growth every year for many years to come,” Schmitt said.
It’s easier for the company to grow when it controls sites throughout its network, Schmitt said. The company had built its business by being located near airports where airlines were its main customers but has decided to look at areas beyond airports as the company expands its network.
Based in Greeneville, Tenn., Forward Air plays a specialized role in the logistics industry. It provides what is referred to in the industry as LTL, less than truckload or load, and last-mile delivery of products. The company has 200 locations and can reach the entire country in three days or less.
Prior to the pandemic, its customer base had focused on concerts, trade shows and cruise lines where speed of delivery was important. Retailers were also a large part of its business.
“Those are our largest, most profitable customers,” Schmitt said. It’s a highly profitable, high precision business. All of that went away.”
The absence of those customers as a result of the coronavirus forced the company to delve into new lines of business and now include more essential industries such as medical and consumer goods.
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