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November 28, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Axle Logistics to invest $37.9 million and create 651 new jobs

The company's existing workforce earns an average paycheck of $115,000 annually.

On what was clearly the coldest day in the city since March, a hearty group of Knoxvillians turned out for an early Christmas present, courtesy of fast-growing Axle Logistics LLC.

The third-party logistics (3PL) company that serves an array of transportation customers across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico announced that it will invest $37.9 million to expand its operations and create 651 new jobs in Knox County over the next five years. When we published this article a little more than two months ago, employment was around 470 employees, so that will bring the workforce to about 1,200 people.

As important as the workforce number is, what is even more significant for the region is the average pay for existing Axle workers that Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon noted in her comments. It is $115,000 annually, well above the Knoxville number of $46,012, as reported last week by ZipRecruiter.

Axle was founded in 2012 by Drew Johnson and Jon Clay, both South Knoxville natives and University of Tennessee, Knoxville graduates. In its first year, the company reported just more than $2.5 million in revenue. Ten years later, Axle reported more than $772.3 million in revenue, placing it #847 on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. with a 698 percent three-year growth rate.

The ceremonial shovel event was held at the already under construction 85,000-square-foot facility adjacent to the old Hull-Dobbs building on North Central Street that Axle remodeled as its headquarters after acquiring the structure in late 2018. It was noted during Tuesday’s event that the new building will include a half-court basketball court in the basement.

The event was emceed by Doug Lawyer, Vice President of Economic Development for the Knoxville Chamber, and featured Commissioner Stuart McWhorter of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development; Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs; Axle Co-Founder Johnson and Ali Fraley, the company’s Vice President of Learning and Development; and Kincannon.

Noting that she has lived in North Knoxville for 22 years and frequently walked her dog in a nearby cemetery, Knoxville’s Mayor said Tuesday’s announcement “is not just good for Axle but also for the community. I commend Axle for being a great corporate citizen.” Jacobs agreed, adding, “In just these few short years, Axle has done much more than they promised.”

McWhorter said that he was “amazed at the story behind the company” that he learned during an earlier visit. As he concluded his comments, he talked about the importance of keeping talent in the community, a point that Fraley also addressed, saying that “we’re attracting the nation’s top talent.”

That had to be music to the ears of the Knoxville Chamber which has been beating the drum on the importance of not only recruiting talent to the region but retaining those who come here for an education or a job. It is a key component of the “Path to Prosperity” five-year strategic vision that was unveiled in May 2020 (see article here).

Johnson was the briefest of all speakers, voicing perhaps one of the characteristics that has allowed Axle to be as successful as the company has been in a little more than a decade of existence. “We are so grateful and appreciative,” he told the attendees. “This is a huge opportunity to continue our growth here.”

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