(Today’s article is by guest writer Heather Ryerson, photos also by Heather except Brown Appliance)
We first told you about Axle Logistics in 2019 when they purchased a property in North Knoxville, began construction on Central Ave in 2020, and then again in 2021 when they opened that location just 18 months ago. When they moved into their current building, the Hull Dobbs Building, they were already overcrowded and had to rapidly expand the basement development to provide more open office space.
The company was recently named a Top Workplace Award winner by Knox News. The award is based entirely on employee feedback and surveys are independently administered. This comes on top of being named to Inc.’s 5000 Best Growth Companies list in 2022. This marked their seventh inclusion on the list since their inception just 10 years ago.
In recent months they have purchased the adjacent block where the former Brown Appliance building now stands, at the corner of Pruitt and Central. Design Innovation Architects and Denark Construction, who worked on the Hull Dobbs Building project, will also complete this project. I met Ali Fraley, VP of Learning and Development, who has been with Axle for eight years and has helped the company grow exponentially. We talked about the plans for this project and more.
He said that while they don’t have a start date for construction, they have exterior renderings and know they plan to build a five-story building that will house about 900 employees. It will include many of the employee-friendly amenities of their current space, but on a larger scale. The new build will have a mid-court basketball court with walkway above, a sauna and larger workout space with plans for an outdoor rooftop space with expansive office floors and walls of glass to demonstrate transparency and openness which they promote to Axle.
One hurdle they face in this budding project and area of Central Ave. is parking for those new employees. Axle is working with the city to determine how they can bring more parking to the area in a safe and affordable way. They realize this is a high impact development and plan to continue supporting their value to give back and positively impact surrounding businesses.
I was intrigued by many of the things I saw while touring the building, and might have considered applying for a job when I saw the stall that is currently set up as an incentive/reward for one lucky employee. There are other things they do to lift morale and recognize the hard work the staff put in every day. I personally loved the gongs on 2 floors. Unfortunately, I was unable to reach one because that privilege is for employees to share and celebrate new partnerships and sales.
Other amenities that you don’t see every day in an office building are a putting green, fire pit area, and game room that are popular for not only blowing off steam, but alternative places to make sales calls and break part of the monotony of sitting at a desk. The large aquarium downstairs and the water feature in the entryway are also relaxing and peaceful ways to revive the workplace spirit. The day I walked in, there was a food vendor in front of which the employees enjoy and bring food trucks to the area weekly to provide lunch, encouraging staff to cross the street on Fridays and support the truck park of food, the central filling station.
Another exciting development is their partnership with UT’s Haslam College of Business to create and maintain the Axle Logistics Performance Sales Lab. This partnership offers UT students the opportunity to earn 3 credit hours while learning the business model of Axle Logistics and serve an internship that could become a job after graduation. Axle sees the potential to retain the talent UT is developing in our community’s business department, but also wants to provide students with the ability to gain real-life, hands-on experience in logistics, whether they’re using it locally or to drive business. their career elsewhere.
While the Brown Appliance construction project is in the works, a place to house their growing staff will be found on Magnolia Ave. The building owned by John Macready and John Roethlisberger is being renovated and will house approximately 200 employees in the area of 14,000 square feet. This will allow them to add more staff to their team and bring back the accounting department which is currently out of office. Axle is carefully developing the space with an open concept that matches the layout of the current building with the hope that she will attract another tenant when Axle moves out of temporary headquarters.
Premier Construction is working on this project and DIA is the architect designing the space. They plan to have this space ready for employees by January 2023.