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October 19, 2017 12:30 PM, EDT
Navistar-GM Partnership Spurs Michigan Trucking Firm to Expand to Ohio, Hire 100
Wheeler Trucking

The Navistar-GM partnership in Springfield, Ohio has lead a Michigan trucking company to open a new terminal in Springfield, a move that could lead to a $5.2 million investment and more than 100 jobs over three years.

Wheeler Trucking, based in Flushing, Mich., recently opened its newest location at a long-vacant Ford dealership at 5600 Urbana Road next to Navistar’s manufacturing facility in Moorefield Township. The trucking firm purchased the property in September 2016 for $400,000, according to Clark County Auditor’s Office records.

RELATED: Navistar, General Motors agree to medium-duty deal

The company, which hauls medium-duty trucks, chassis and commercial vans now has 18 employees, owner Rex Wheeler said. But he has plans to secure additional work and expand.

“There is a need in the marketplace for a company like ours,” Wheeler said. “We’re really excited about Springfield.”

Wheeler Trucking opened its Springfield location after securing a deal with GM, which manufactures a cutaway van as part of a joint agreement with Navistar. Wheeler loads and ships the vans to customers across the U.S. and Canada.

Most of the work now being done takes place within Navistar’s facility, Wheeler said. But the long-term plan is to invest in infrastructure on the new property that would include a dispatch office and a shop for the company’s mechanics.

Wheeler had more than two decades of experience owning and operating his own truck when he found himself out of work in 2009. He opened Wheeler Trucking in July 2010 and in just a few years, it has grown to a company with almost 250 employees, 132 trucks and about $60 million in annual business. It provides service to all 48 states in the continental U.S. and parts of Canada.

The business has seven major customers but has plans to grow to about 12 significant customers by 2024, he said. Springfield is the company’s seventh terminal in the U.S., along with sites in Baltimore, Kansas City, San Diego and Sheffield Village, Ohio.

The company’s decision to add a terminal in Springfield shows the impact Navistar’s recent deals with GM can have on the rest of the local economy, said Amy Donahoe, director of hiring and employer services for the Chamber of Greater Springfield.

Wheeler has already been active locally, Donahoe said, and is hosting an employee appreciation day next week.

“He wants to be involved in the community and that’s absolutely wonderful for us,” she said.

Part of his company’s success, Wheeler said, is that operating as a small, family-run business provides the company with flexibility when working to secure contracts with manufacturers like GM. At the same time, he said his own experience in the industry made it clear how important it is to hire and retain talented workers.

Of the 102 total jobs the company plans to provide, he said about 76 will be drivers. Finding qualified drivers can be challenging due to an ongoing shortage, Wheeler said, but the business has had success filling vacancies. Its routes include both over-the-road trips and some day routes to locations like Northern Indiana.

“It’s a physical job but it’s a good-paying job,” Wheeler said.

Navistar’s Springfield facility produces medium, severe service and heavy duty commercial trucks, and the GM cutaway van on a separate line. The company will launch a new joint venture truck with GM next year. Those trucks will be available in both the International and GM brands, and will be produced with engineering input from both companies.

The Navistar plant employ about 1,500 workers and thousands of retirees in the area.

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