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Logistics company expands GR office to keep up with growth

Due to recent growth, a logistics services company is expanding its Grand Rapids office and increasing the size of its team.

Automated Logistics Systems (ALS) is in the process of adding an additional 9,000 square feet to its existing 3,000 square feet of space at 1595 Galbraith Ave SE, Suite 275. The new space will have the capacity for about 120 total employees — almost tripling the office’s current headcount of about 45 team members.

Despite broad industry challenges such as supply chain disruptions and labor shortages, ALS — which also has offices in Jackson and in Laredo, Texas — has seen its operations growing in recent years, particularly in the Grand Rapids market.

“I know we’re expecting to grow in all our locations over the next few years, but our biggest area of growth we are expecting is in Grand Rapids just with the pure talent and opportunities we’re finding in the area,” said Colin McCloskey, vice president of managed services at ALS.

The company decided to establish a presence in the West Michigan region after operating on the east side of the state and serving customers in the automotive industry through its Jackson office since 1994. The Grand Rapids employees were based out of a small office downtown in 2015 before moving to a building off East Beltline Avenue in 2017 as the team began to grow.

According to McCloskey, the company continued to expand its regional team and experience year over year growth as a business overall. The team moved into the current Grand Rapids office in 2019, and McCloskey said he anticipates the need to expand again in the next few years.

According to the team, the organization’s culture is a key factor for this growth.

“I think probably the biggest reason as to why we’ve had continued success since COVID is because we kept our great people, and then we’ve just focused on hiring more great people,” said Nick Schaefer, vice president of operations and sales at ALS. “Our culture just continually turns the flywheel for our organization to continue to grow.”

At the root of the ALS culture is its family-owned origin. The company was founded by Harry Parker as Parker Motor Freight in 1927, operating out of Boyne City with one secondhand truck running freight in the midst of the Great Depression’s economic downturn.

When Parker was killed in a car accident in 1947, his wife, Lucille, took over the business and helped it prosper. Schaefer mentioned this was at a time when there were few female presidents in the male-dominated trucking industry.

Since then, the company has continued to be family-owned and operated. Under the leadership of Harry and Lucille’s son, John Parker, Parker Motor Freight rebranded to ALS in 1992 to become a broader organization utilizing freight brokerage to expand capabilities and transportation nodes plus improve market share.

Today, the third generation of Parker leadership has manifested in Joe Parker’s role as president. According to the team, he leads with transparency and a commitment to employees.

“That’s why culture is so important to us at ALS — it really stems from being a family-owned company,” McCloskey said.

One thing that set ALS apart during pandemic-related difficulties, McCloskey said, was Joe Parker’s commitment to retaining employees and avoiding any layoffs from the beginning. Now, the company is working to increase its team from a growth standpoint instead of being understaffed.

“In logistics, your only asset that you have to invest in is people, so it’s really on the backs of your people who are going to drive your business forward,” Schaefer said. “You can take the best strategy in the world, but if you don’t have people to execute it, all you have is a great idea.”

McCloskey, Schaefer and Jared Dubay, director of carrier sales at ALS, all emphasized the company’s additional support for employees through bonuses, weekly lunches, planned outings and consistent company-wide recognition of employees who embody the core values of ALS.

ALS also seeks to make an impact for others outside of the organization. McCloskey recalled a time when a donor for a foundation supporting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, mistakenly sent a significant check to the logistics provider’s Jackson office.

McCloskey said Parker ensured the check was delivered to the foundation and has helped organize financial support for the foundation each year through company golf outings plus contributions to families impacted by Lou Gehrig’s disease and by Parkinson’s disease.

For Schaefer, these efforts have helped strengthen the team and propel the company forward, as evident by the new Grand Rapids expansion.

“I think probably the biggest thing that’s propelled us is people feeling part of something greater than just coming into work and signing in at 8 a.m. and going home at 5 p.m.,” Schaefer said. “When you have a culture like this where people work so hard together, you can move mountains with a bunch of people rowing in the same direction.”

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