Byline: DAVID BAUERLEIN
"Welcome to the Pit."
That's the message hanging over the room where Corporate Traffic employees monitor computer screens and track 200 freight shipments a day across the United States.
It's where Corporate Traffic fields phone calls from customers, arranges for their goods to be transported by trucking companies, follows shipments to make sure they're on schedule, and keeps customers informed of stumbling blocks such as severe weather.
"This is really the heart and soul of the company," says Chad Cline, executive vice president of Corporate Traffic, a firm located in the Southside of Jacksonville. "This is where the energy is. ..."
It's also representative of the kind of businesses - transportation logistics - that's gaining speed as a job generator in Northeast Florida. Corporate Traffic, a family-owned firm, employs 50 people at its Jacksonville headquarters. It has added 10 positions since January.
Transportation logistics has joined health care and information technology - two long-standing growth areas - as hot spots for hiring, said Candace Moody, spokeswoman for WorkSource, a state-funded agency that matches job-seekers with employers.
Moody defined logistics as encompassing jobs such as truck drivers, sea port and railroad workers, and all the businesses involved in planning how to move freight through the global supply chain.
"It is getting more sophisticated," Moody said. "We're looking at higher and higher skill levels for the jobs."
Last year, the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce sought to brand the city as an industry leader by posting signs along the interstate proclaiming Jacksonville "America's Logistics Center."
The motto highlighted Jacksonville's status as the headquarters for railroad and marine shipping companies, the activity at the port of Jacksonville and Jacksonville International Airport, and the junction of Interstate 10 and Interstate 95 for highway shipping.
In higher education, the University of North Florida is seeking to make its Transportation and Logistics Program one of the top 10 of its kind in the nation. Florida State College at Jacksonville recently won a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to beef up its logistics program, which currently offers a two-year associate degree.
The college is considering a four-year bachelor's degree that would focus on management of distribution warehouses. The degree would combine specialized instruction in logistics with other business courses, said college President Steven Wallace. The goal is to offer the bachelor's program starting in fall 2013.
Wallace said college courses prepare students for logistics careers because technology - computer software programs, bar codes, radio frequency identification tags - is central to the creating and management of global supply chains. He compared coursework in logistics to how students learn math by starting with basic math functions, move on to algebra and advance to high-level math. …