Human Resources and Manufacturing

Sons take the wheel at freight management company

Jonathan Laning, Kyle Walcott each purchase 25-percent shares of Premier Freight.

October 21, 2016
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Premier Freight Management Corporation
Jonathan Laning, left, and Kyle Walcott, right, each purchased a 25-percent share of Premier Freight Management from Mark Laning, center, who is retiring. Courtesy Premier Freight Management

For the past 10 years, Jonathan Laning and Kyle Walcott have been learning the ropes at Premier Freight Management Corporation — owned by their fathers, Doug Walcott and Mark Laning — in preparation for the day they will take over.

Earlier this month, the pair took a big step in that direction, each purchasing 25-percent ownership of the business and its subsidiaries, including Premier Freight, Premier Freight Systems and Premier Asset Leasing.

The shares were purchased from Mark Laning, who is retiring.

Doug Walcott will continue as the company’s CEO and plans to stay with the company for the foreseeable future.

Mark Laning and Doug Walcott founded Premier Freight 14 years ago.

“For me, it is something that has been an ongoing process. We came into it with the understanding that we were going to learn it and take it over,” Jonathan Laning said. “It is still a process of transition, and this is a step along the way with that. It is an honor to make it official, but it’s been an ongoing process that started 10 years ago and continues.”

In preparation for becoming second-generation owners of Premier Freight, Laning and Walcott have learned everything from operations to sales, and the pair said they’ve learned plenty from their fathers in that time, as well.

“I think we are in a really great place, because we’ve been here 10 and nine years, respectively, and we’ve had the chance to see them work,” Laning said. “The work ethic they’ve brought for the last 10 years has taught us what is important and set up a culture we can continue.”

Premier Freight began as a logistics company and has evolved into a shipping, logistics and warehousing business serving the furniture and manufacturing industries in West Michigan.

Kyle Walcott said trucking was added first, followed by the warehousing component.

Today, Premier Freight has 15 of its own trucks and the company brokers with other companies to carry the remainder of its freight, which equates to approximately 75-100 loads per week.

Laning said one of the unique aspects of Premier Freight is it focuses on transporting large, complex and unique items for its manufacturing clients.

“Items such as oversized machinery that isn’t on a typical 4x4 skid,” he said. “A lot of companies just want to handle skidded product. If it can go inside a trailer or on a flatbed truck, we can handle it and figure out a way to make it work.”

Laning said Premier Freight also is unique in its model because it combines customer orders to maximize volume in the truck and reduce costs.

The company’s warehousing business is important in allowing it to operate that way.

“A lot of our competitors typically have a brokerage company that doesn’t have warehouse space where they can take the different shipments back to,” Laning said. “We can bring all those things back to our warehouse and then put them together, load direct on a truck and send them out. That is unusual and our specialty.”

Laning said it also cuts down on opportunities for damage.

“Whenever it is handled, you are at risk of creating a damaged product,” he said.

Premier Freight recently added to its warehousing capacity, completing a long-term lease on 75,000 square feet of warehousing space at Holland’s Federal Square Business Park.

“Opening a new warehouse has led to people who are looking to warehouse coming our direction,” Laning said. “New customers are looking to fill that space, and we are dealing daily with people who are interested.”

Laning and Walcott see great growth potential for Premier Freight.

They said on the logistics side, there always is freight to move, and they see the trajectory of manufacturing heading upward, which will mean more work for them.

Walcott said West Michigan’s available warehousing space is limited currently, which presents opportunities for Premier Freight, as well.

The pair also said territory expansion is possible in the future, as is expanding the Premier Freight workforce beyond its current 35 employees.

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