RIVERVIEW — BlueGrace Logistics owns no trucks, but every day from its headquarters on Falkenburg Road the company books deliveries for thousands of shippers nationwide.
A third-party logistics provider, BlueGrace connects companies moving goods with freight carriers. Recently, it updated its digital platform to help supply-chain executives track quotes, orders and products as everything from weather to driver shortages affects their increasingly tight delivery schedules.
The privately held company did $338 million in revenue last year and budgeted for $504 million this year. It has 600 employees, 380 of them in Hillsborough County. It’s a company with a big focus on culture and experience. The work space is huge, with few walls or private offices. High-energy music plays throughout. Employees bang gongs to announce goals met and deals closed. Every Friday at 4 p.m., they tap three kegs to signal the end of the week. For its 10th anniversary party last week, BlueGrace brought rapper Flo Rida to the Cuban Club in Ybor City.
By 2022, BlueGrace aims to be a multi-billion-dollar a year company with as many as 3,000 employees. Recently, 44-year-old founder and CEO Bobby Harris talked with the Tampa Bay Times about the company’s rapid growth, biggest challenges and the road ahead. Here is the conversation, edited for length and clarity:
What did you do before you founded BlueGrace?
BH: I used to own franchises that were centered around shipping. I had 23 locations around the U.S., largely centered around a contract I had with DHL, and in 2008 DHL stopped performing intra-U.S. services, so I had to do something new.
In 2016, BlueGrace announced a $255 million investment from New York private equity firm Warburg Pincus, along with plans to hire up to 700 new employees and to look for a new, larger headquarters, possibly in downtown Tampa.
What’s the status of those plans?
BH: We’ve done some pretty deep studies on how it will affect our current employees, how it will affect our recruiting and ultimately how it will assist BlueGrace in reaching our goals.
From a recruiting angle, it’s phenomenal. The type of people we want typically like that environment to work in. So we’re very bullish on getting parts or all of the company into downtown Tampa. We’re planning out until 2022 (but) you’ll see us moving into space later this year somewhere, somehow, even if it’s temporary. We’re popping at the seams here. We’re hiring 120 people in June. That will put us over our ability to contain them all here.
Are you looking at Water Street Tampa?
BH: We love Water Street. We love what they’re doing there. We would love to find a way to work that out. We’ve been talking with them….(continue reading)