city ahead on a road at night

Civil Engineering & Infrastructure

modern concrete structure

Concrete

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Design Build | CM | GC

multiple excavators parked in a row

Equipment

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Green Building

toolbelt construction tools

Specialty Contracting

Solutions-Based Logistics with a Community Focus

With a winter season that stretches to almost half of the year and large portions of this time being in near total darkness, it is fair to say that operating a logistics company in Alaska can be a challenge. With spectacular views and treacherous conditions in equal measure, there is a necessity for both highly skilled and mentally prepared individuals. STR Alaska is a company that prides itself on being the best of both. The business, servicing its clients since 2014, has quickly established itself as a leader in the logistics and transport field and has developed a top level team of staff and a diverse range of services in, what it is fair to say, is a difficult environment. The goal of the company is to be a leader in its field, enabling its clients to move unique and complex loads with its top of the range fleet of transportation equipment.

The company was set up by a team of five partners about seven years ago. At the time, they were operating with just five trucks. However, once the company began to explore the market, there was an almost immediate realization that the potential for expansion was huge. It was evident from the beginning that there would be a need to quickly expand to keep up with the needs of its customers. Cody Hyce, Central Terminal Manager at the company, explains how things got off the ground at the company. ‘’We started off with about five trucks and a handful of trailers. Before too long it took off, right through that first summer. After the first summer we realized that we needed a lot more equipment and a lot more people to keep up with what our customers needed.’’

“By expanding the range of services to include smaller freights, the company found a path that has evolved considerably over time and has allowed it to tap into an ever growing list of sub-sectors.”

What was also clear from those early explorations into the market is that there was a broad range of opportunities available that, until then, hadn’t been considered. By expanding the range of services to include smaller freights, the company found a path that has evolved considerably over time and has allowed it to tap into an ever growing list of sub-sectors. ‘’We also needed to adapt to what we were transporting; not just the heavy loads that we started with, but also the smaller pieces that go with that. We went with a combination of LTL and heavy haul for six years. Then more recently we decided to get into the fuel market transport and distribution sector. So now we do it all; logistics, planning, coordination, tracking. If you need it done and it has anything to do with moving something, everybody in the state of Alaska knows that we’re the best option.’’

While this need for expansion may have been evident right from the start, there was also a natural element to it which meant that the company was never swamped and under pressure to grow at a level that could be unsustainable. Cody likens this growth to a ‘’constant friction growth’’ which enabled the company to expand gradually, meeting its clients one step at a time. ‘’We never hit a spot where we thought, okay, we need to get another ten office units and ten more office employees and twenty drivers right now. We were able to just keep injecting more people, one by one. We were able to hire guys and put them in new trucks as we go. We never really had to go through a big growth spurt like that. We just kind of kept a steady friction and we grew one by one.’’

STR Alaska transport truck closeup

STR Alaska is not the only logistics company in the region. However, there are very clear factors that sets it apart from its competitors. With a keen eye on both regulatory and industry issues, the company believes that attention to detail and an open, responsive relationship with its clients gives it an edge when it comes to meeting a client’s demands. Scott Ferguson, Logistics Manager at the company, explains how the level of detail in-house is a key indicator of continued success. ‘’What sets us apart is our response to markets. Our core ownership team are very engaged with industry, both at the regulatory level with the department of transportation and various agencies, or with groups within the transportation industry. The company is highly engaged with our clients to really have a clear understanding of what their needs are and how we can support them. Here in Alaska, we have an absolutely amazing landscape and just how companies like ourselves work in this environment is truly incredible. But one of the differentiators is really our higher engagement with the client to understand at a really high level how to support the growth and assist with other development initiatives.’’

Given the remote nature of Alaska and the sheer distances between locations, it is unsurprising that STR Alaska experiences difficulties with securing highly skilled staff. The company is rightly proud of the hardworking and experienced staff that it has on-board, however, when the time comes to hire additional workers, the company has occasionally found itself with a challenge to overcome. Cody explains how the success of the company has led to difficulties in finding the right employees. ‘’Alaska is kind of like living on an island, because of how isolated is. So if you put your company on an island and you get bigger and bigger, eventually you will either have everybody that’s worth hiring working for you, or you run out of people.’’

“One of the differentiators is really our higher engagement with the client to understand at a really high level how to support the growth and assist with other development initiatives.”

One way that STR Alaska has addressed this issue is with a bespoke and highly detailed training plan that it rolls out for new employees. This program works with the driver at their own level to identify their needs and work in a scaffolded way to develop and upskill the individual. ‘’I would say that our training is so specific that we haven’t developed one set of guidelines for training a driver start to finish. We are such a dynamic group that when we hire an employee, as a driver we can take that individual if they have the drive to work and the passion to be in the industry, and teach them everything they need to know over about a five year period. We tailor it to what the individual needs.’’

This need for growth across the company’s highly skilled workforce is testament to the success that STR Alaska has experienced in recent years. The company has added the oil industry to its portfolio of services. This addition, according to Cody, has resulted in attaining a sense of security that helps to smooth out the fluctuating market that many companies in the region tend to face. ‘’In the past, we would go through these ups and downs where wintertime is really busy and then in summertime there would be some dips in our revenue but fuel is consistent. It gets slightly busier in the winter but there’s always a steady volume and now things are predictable. Branching into that has given us an opportunity to flatten out those ups and downs in revenue and workload.’’ While this diversifying of services has resulted in increased revenue and growth, that is not the only reason to celebrate. ‘’We’re going to add about twenty-six employees. We are going to have twenty-six more jobs created under our business portfolio and that’s a good thing because we want to get to a place where we can give back to the community and not just focus on growing a company.’’

This sense of community is something that permeates through everything that STR Alaska does. Cody is fully aware that, by training and employing locally sourced employees, it ensures that the local economy can thrive and survive. This is something that the company feel will have a generational effect. ‘’I just want to get things growing to a point where you give back to the community, you can recruit more people that way to be part of your company. Also, you can inspire the youth when you are able to give back to your child’s school and sports teams. Those kids are going to be old enough to work someday and they’re going to need a job. It benefits them as much as it benefits our team and the company. What it really gets back to is the field of gratitude you know, the good feelings. In the end nothing beats that feeling.’’

At the end of the day, the company has built its reputation on being the leader in its field. From the steady growth that it has experienced, through its individualized training program and desire to work to any requirements its clients might have, the company quite rightly positions itself as one that can deliver solutions. It is not inconceivable to be discussing this company for many years to come. Scott is convinced that, by ensuring that STR Alaska continues to work towards the goals it has set itself, the company will go from strength to strength. ‘’Our relationship with our clients is really what drives business and drives our opportunities. We have a very targeted focus, as far as engaging with our clients because we are a transportation company but we are also a solutions company. We provide solutions to the very intricate challenges that the environment up in Alaska provides. To understand the needs of our clients requires that high level of engagement with our clients. I really think that from our management team down to our drivers, we do that better than anyone else.’’

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