From humble beginnings of hauling potatoes in the upper midwest, Valley Express Inc. has grown into a multidimensional global logistics company. With roots well planted in their ND home office, they started as a freight brokerage company that has expanded its services across several locations throughout the US. And through all their growth, Valley Express has maintained an impeccable reputation for consistency.
Within hours of asking if the team would be interested in speaking with NDTO for this article, I had four of their team members on a video call ready to tell me all about their dynamic approach to transportation and logistics. Overwhelmingly responsive is the best way to describe this team of hardworking and approachable professionals. Glenn Nelson, Chief Financial Officer, Wayne Larson, VP- Global Markets, Ian Nicks, VP Intermodal Logistics, and Amie O’Connor VP Global Operations, showed how their web of connectivity for imports and exports results in a highly effective model to benefit all.
Valley Express/ Worldwide moves around $70 million in freight revenue annually. They have grown and added value to their customers along the way with Valley Express, Valley Logistics Solutions, Valley Intermodal Solutions, and more. “Each one of our additional diversifications, like intermodal, has helped us become stronger and more responsive to the local community and customers,” says Nelson. He goes on to explain that “just about everything we do comes from a 300-mile radius of the Fargo Moorhead area. We really are supporting this community with their freight needs.” Valley Express has participated in trade missions, reverse trade missions, and STEP-funded opportunities with the NDTO throughout the years. These experiences have helped them better understand the business and build upon their connections.
“The intention was always to grow Valley Worldwide to support other aspects of the business and facilitate Valley Intermodal,” explains Nicks. “Their goal is to grow to the point where our own fleet can handle our own containers through the Valley Worldwide office and vice versa, so that everything is all tied together.” Nicks say that one of the biggest headaches he hears from exporters/importers is that they are often surprised by the many parties involved in moving the goods. Valley’s role is to help clarify and simplify the process. “What Valley is building is a one-stop-shop. All a customer needs to do is call Valley, and that is it. They [customers] don’t have to know anything about import/export documentation or if they need an AES [Automated Export System] filing. They don’t have to know who is draying their container, or if there is a container shortage, and how to navigate that,” says Nicks. Customers typically come to Valley Express/ Worldwide in need of trucking services, but this relationship often evolves with the variety of integrated services offered. The team can navigate all of the specificity of shipping seamlessly without confusing the customers.
Larson, who is based in Duluth, MN, explained that Valley Express/ Worldwide grew close partnerships with the Duluth Seaport Authority and Lake Superior Warehousing to help open an intermodal facility in 2017. The intermodal facility was a game-changer for many businesses, from seeing five containers coming into port weekly to seeing over one hundred. “Part of that is working directly with the Port Authority and Superior Warehousing,” Larson explains “we can offer all types of services from freight forwarding, trucking, warehousing, and trans-loading to benefit many companies.” A Free Trade Zone (FTZ) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) services are also available on-site. US Customs inspections can often be scheduled the next day and take about 15 minutes. This helps to ease the timing and paperwork for many importers.
With its network of connections, Valley Express/ Worldwide has a competitive edge to help customers ship goods more efficiently. They can accommodate heavy commodity weight containers coming through the Duluth Port. The excess weight that is too heavy for roads can be stored and repacked to a manageable road weight and then shipped overland to their final destination. Companies can significantly reduce shipping costs overseas by shipping an overweight container via sea and then repacking it for road weight.
O’Connor manages operations at the Minneapolis, MN office and was described as “the epitome of operational excellence and keeping us all on the straight and narrow,” says Nelson. The Minneapolis facility is an FDA-certified warehouse. Their space is also available for projects or to hold items for inventory management. The flexibility with this space is a valuable tool and can help supplement the customer’s needs. In addition, O’Connor says, “our team specializes in making it easy for our importers and exporters. They don’t do this every day, and we do! If we can take this portion of their business off their hands and make it simple, we are happy to.”
The Minneapolis intermodal trucking fleet operates between 40-50 owner-operators on any given day. Many of these operators are doing one to two loads per day throughout the region. With a “street-turn,” meaning when full load is brought to its end destination and then can be reloaded with an export, it can then be brought back to Minneapolis full and ready for export again. The ability to do the street-turns has been invaluable for both companies to reduce costs and move goods more quickly. Valley Intermodal touches between 1000-1200 containers per month out of Minneapolis, many of which can be reused/reloaded or repositioned where they are needed. In Duluth, they are able to match the imports and exports with 50 containers going in and out each week.
Valley Express/ Worldwide is the most extensive intermodal fleet in the state of ND. “Our owner operations and their trucks have Valley Express on the doors. They are running under our licenses, insurance, authority, and their trailers are purchased from us, so we have created a structure where we can say yes to a truck that wants to come on. So we can grow for the customers quite quickly,” explains Nelson. The team continues to increase their networking and have contacts in pretty much every location they have freight coming or going. As active members of the International Freight and Logistics Network (IFLN), the alliance is an invaluable resource and provides added security when shipping globally.
Valley Express/ Worldwide continues to grow and serve the community in ND to help build connections, cooperate with many businesses, and aims to simplify logistics for everyone. “Our customers don’t have to be experts in international logistics. They just have to have our phone number,” says Nicks, and the whole team nods and smiles.