Saddle Creek Logistics Services prides itself on 52 years of serving Polk County and Central Florida’s needs, whether transportation, warehousing or supply chain related.

The family-owned company that started with 12,000-square-feet of warehouse space now owns locations from the Northeast to California and south to its headquarters in Lakeland.

The company focuses on four areas: warehousing, omnichannel fulfillment, transportation and packaging.

Let’s break it down:

  • Warehousing: The company owns 44 locations throughout the country to store, assemble and distribute goods and merchandise.
  • Omnichannel fulfillment: Saddle Creek works with everyone from brick-and-mortar stores to e-commerce sites to distribute goods.
  • Transportation: It moves inventory nationwide with its fleet of trucks. As one of the early adopters of alternative fuel, its fleet uses Compressed Natural Gas — a substitute for gas — to help sustain the environment, reduce carbon emissions and reduce the dependency on foreign oil (almost all Compressed Natural Gas is produced in the USA).
  • Packaging: Saddle Creek continues to innovate its distribution processes to serve the needs of all clients.

Howard Drake, director of Polk State Corporate College, said he works with high school career academies to ensure they are graduating students who are certified in logistics. That allows companies like Saddle Creek to hire them for entry-level jobs right out of high school.

Logistics and manufacturing are an important part of Polk County and Central Florida, Drake said.

“It’s because of where we are positioned in the state geographically,” he said. “With the Polk Parkway, Interstate 4 and proposed (roadways) — you can go in any direction and be wherever you need to be in the same amount of time. That allows for more real-time deliveries. It helps businesses all the way around

“We are a hub of transportational and manufacturing activities.”

Mark Cabrera, who had a history in finance before joining Saddle Creek as its chief financial officer in 2001, was promoted to chief operating officer on July 1, 2017. He is being groomed to become chief executive officer when current CEO Cliff Otto retires, which is expected in the next year.

The CFDC asked Cabrera about the state of logistics in the Central Florida area. This is what he has to say.

CFDC: What does the market in Polk County and Central Florida look like right now for logistics?

Cabrera: We believe that the Interstate 4 corridor, with Polk County at its center, is the perfect location for manufacturers to distribute their products throughout the state. Consumer demand for faster delivery times and greater product availability is creating an even greater need for companies to service Florida markets from within the state of Florida as opposed to distributing from other points in the southeast, as we have traditionally seen in more regional distribution models.

CFDC: You are about to open up a new warehouse along the Polk Parkway. Do you have plans for future growth in Polk County or Central Florida, and, if so, what does that look like?

Cabrera: Our Auburndale expansion is set to begin operation in August, and it will bring over 100 new jobs to Polk County. While we don’t have specific plans for future expansion in any one individual market, we are focused on continued responsible growth. And as stated above, we believe Central Florida represents great opportunity for growth in the logistics market, and our established presence provides us a great advantage in participating in that growth.

CFDC: Has the increased traffic at Port Tampa Bay, along with the dredging of the Panama Canal to allow for larger ships to pass through, created more opportunities for Saddle Creek?

Cabrera: Not directly, but certainly indirectly. More business coming through Florida through any of its ports is good for Florida logistics.

CFDC: How is the Integrated Logistics Center affecting Saddle Creek?

Cabrera: These centers provide omnichannel order fulfillment services to manufacturers and online retailers alike, and this is also the fastest-growing segment of our business. We work with many manufacturers and retailers that are seeking to build ownership of their own brands and control their customers’ experience, whether through the traditional brick-and-mortar retail channels or via e-commerce. While we can compete for resources with some of these centers, our service offering is distinct and our client base in this category is growing because of the service we provide.

CFDC: What else would you like readers to know about Saddle Creek and its effects on the Polk County and Central Florida market?

Cabrera: Saddle Creek is dedicated to being a good community member in all of our locations, but obviously Polk County holds a special place for us because it is where we were founded and still have our headquarters. We believe that Polk County is a great place to work and live, and the growth that we have experienced, especially over the last five to 10 years, has brought many new opportunities and jobs. We work hard to be good corporate citizens, we sponsor many community groups and events, and we support our associates involvement in charities and organizations, as well.