UPDATE: Demand for distribution services drives firm’s growth

A business model that a top executive at Backhaul Direct LLC describes as “pretty simple” could enable the company to grow nearly fivefold within the next four years.

The Indianapolis logistics firm said Thursday morning that it plans to invest $1.7 million to grow its downtown operation and add 324 jobs by 2015.

“There’s quite a bit of opportunity out there in our sector as companies look to reduce their transportation costs,” Chief Operating Officer Nick Hoagland said. “And one way for a company to do that is to get backhauls on their freight.”

What that means is Backhaul Direct will contract with a supermarket, for instance, that needs a product shipped from St. Louis to Indianapolis. It then will locate a carrier with an empty semitrailer returning from a delivery that can pick up the load, usually at a lower cost than a normal contract.

“They’d rather come home with something rather than nothing, so that’s where the real savings occurs,” Hoagland said.

Backhaul Direct also contracts with carriers in an attempt to provide them more business.

Founded in 2004 by owner Greg Harris, it ranked 13th last year on IBJ’s list of fastest-growing private companies, reporting revenue of more than $18.9 million in 2009. Sales grew to $28 million last year, Hoagland said.

Backhaul Direct now employs about 70 at its 1 Virginia Ave. headquarters, where it intends to lease additional space. The company occupies 13,000 square feet on the fourth floor of the building anchored by first-floor tenant Scotty’s Brewhouse.

It relocated to the building two years ago from the Morrison Opera House Building on South Meridian Street and has an option to lease more space to accommodate the growth.

Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered the company as much as $2 million in performance-based tax credits and up to $75,000 in training grants based on the job-creation plans. The city will consider an additional property tax abatement at the request of Develop Indy.

In 2009, the firm launched BD Managed Services, a subsidiary that manages IT and telecommunications services for companies in the logistics industry. It is located on the third floor at 1 Virginia Ave.

Hoagland said it will begin hiring customer service, information technology, sales and management positions immediately.

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