Photo by Curt Yeomans
Special Service Freight Company President Steve Perriman explains a map of where his trucks carry freight, during a ribbon-cutting and customer-appreciation event at the new College Park facility on Thursday.
A Charlotte-based freight company is expanding in Clayton County as a result of its recent westward growth across the southeast, officials from the company, and the county’s economic development department announced this week.
Special Service Freight Company, which has only been in metro Atlanta for three-and-a-half years, recently had to move to a new, larger facility to accommodate the growing number of pieces of freight that it is moving through the area for its customers.
It also recently expanded into new cities in Tennessee, as it increases its footprint in the region. Meanwhile, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the central hub that connects all of the cities, across six states, that Special Service is currently in, company leaders said.
The company had operated out of a 12,000-square-foot staging facility in College Park for its first few years in the area, but that was becoming too small to handle the freight load. So, company leaders held a ribbon-cutting ceremony this week, to formally open a new, 28,000-square-foot staging facility — across the street from the old one.
“We’ve grown the company so much recently, and we made a commitment to Atlanta three-and-a-half years ago to make it a major hub for the Carolinas, and Florida, and obviously, Georgia itself,” said Special Service President Steve Perriman. “We had to double our space, just to handle the freight.”
Although Special Service has been in Clayton County for a few years, its expansion is just another sign of how important cargo and freight is becoming in, and around, the airport. The City of Atlanta has been pushing recently to make Hartsfield-Jackson one of the nation’s top airports for cargo. As a result, international cargo airlines, such as Italy-based Cargoitalia, have moved in.
With all of this growth in cargo airlines at the airport, Clayton County officials said they are pleased to see the strides made by freight companies like Special Service. “The capacity and potential for growth at this airport is huge, so we’re really thrilled to have a company like this continue to grow and expand in the county,” said Kevin Gullette, deputy director of the Clayton County Economic Development Department.
Gullette said Clayton County Commissioner Gail Hambrick had been scheduled to participate in the ribbon cutting for the new facility, on Thursday, but could not make it because she had a last-minute meeting to attend. Special Service’s new facility is located in Hambrick’s commission district.
“We’ve brought her over here before, and she’s met with them [Special Service officials], and she’s thrilled to have something that creates jobs and investment in her district,” the county’s deputy economic development director said.
Perriman said the company chose its location in the Atlanta area based on its easy access to freight forwarders, local highways, and the airport. It is located at 430 Plaza Drive, near Clark Howell Highway, Forest Parkway, Ga. Hwy. 85, and Interstates 75 and 285.
“Every five minutes that we are further away from a major highway, that’s costing us time to get to Miami [for example], and that’s competitive time,” he said.
The company does line haul work, which connects its College Park facility with other facilities in more than 20 cities, including Charlotte, Nashville, Orlando, Miami, Tampa, Mobile, Columbia (S.C.), Charleston, Savannah, and Augusta. The company is usually hired by a customer’s “front forwarder” to pick up freight at the airport, and make sure it gets to the next destination.
Although a 28,000-square-foot facility may not sound very big, Special Service officials said a lot more freight moves through the building than people might imagine. Freight comes into the facility, which company officials said, serves as a staging area where the items are sorted out based on where they are headed next. The freight is then taken out at night on tractor trailer trucks, to the Special Service facility located at the next stop on its journey. From there, it is distributed to its final destination during the next day.
Perriman said the facility handles an average of 12 to 20 tractor trailer loads of freight, sometimes even more, every day. “We are not a freight storage warehouse, we basically bring it in, sort it out, and help stage it and get it out as fast as possible,” he said. “It really should come in at some point during the day, and either be gone out within two hours, or gone out that night.”
The new facility’s storage area was largely empty as guests were led on a tour of the building on Thursday morning. But, Special Service Atlanta Hub Manager Tony Kelley said that is because much of the activity picks up in the later hours of each day, and during the night. “Night time is when the magic happens,” he said. “That is when we’ll have freight constantly coming and going.”
The freight company’s move to a new facility is not the only mark of its growth in the area. Perriman said he does expect, in time, to add between 10 and 15 new jobs at the College Park facility, and eventually grow to have an even bigger presence in the area.
“It is our most important station,” he said. “We’re here to stay. We’re always going to be a regional player. We aren’t going to get a huge amount bigger to the west. We certainly aren’t going further north. So, from Atlanta’s point of view, and from Clayton County’s point of view, I hope this is the next stepping stone to the next 50,000-, maybe 80,000-square-foot facility.
“You only have to look at our map to know Atlanta is our future,” Perriman added.