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New companies and an accelerator are tackling transportation and logistics in the Silicon Prairie

Virtually every community in the Silicon Prairie advertises that it is in the middle of the country, and thus it is a good location for transportation, logistics, and warehousing.  It should come as no surprise then, that many regional communities have a significant employment level in transportation and warehousing.

According to the United States Cluster Mapping project (www.clustermapping.us), eleven of the fifty largest transportation and logistics clusters in the United States are in the Silicon Prairie. The largest of these clusters is Chicago, but the densest of these clusters (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) are Joplin, MO (location quotient of 2.22), Fayetteville, AR (LQ – 1.94), and Cedar Rapids, IA (LQ – 1.86).

It is, therefore, no surprise that start-up technology companies are growing out of the Plains in large quantities––these companies often are tied to local need and expertise.

It is for this reason that Fuel Accelerator is being created in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with support from Wal-Mart, RevUnit, and Startup Junkie.

The sixteen-week program is being built to help supply chain-focused startups prepare to deal with larger enterprises, preparing enterprises to talk to buyers, run successful pilot programs, and navigate the landscape of large entities, like Wal-Mart.

“Walmart and its supply chain continue to redefine what’s possible in retail, including through innovative programs that leverage technology to help build a better associate and customer experience,” said Cameron Geiger, senior vice president of Walmart Supply Chain. “Ensuring we have the right digital strategy for the future of our business includes assessing new ideas and new technology with the most innovative tech startups and partners. We’re excited to support Fuel in the supply-chain space.”

However, Fayetteville is not the only location for new supply-chain focused startups. According to Pitchbook, Silicon Prairie logistics startups have raised more than $100 million and exited for more than $1 billion (led by Minneapolis based Highjump which was acquired by Korber for $750 million in August of 2017).

These companies are growing across the region––not just in the big cities––and mark a significant, regular contribution to most community’s technology and entrepreneurial ecosystem. For example:

  • Appleton, Wisconsin is home to WOW Logistics which runs a third-party logistics and software company.
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma has a Failsafe Hazmat Compliance, a company specializing in transportation and compliance regarding hazardous materials and dangerous articles and their shipment.
  • Omaha’s Startup Collaborative has a company that specializes in shipping ocean-based containers – the Importer Network – led by Council Bluffs native Hugh Finerty.
  • Cargofy, from Cedar Rapids, is one of Iowa’s most promising software startups – helping shippers move full truckloads of goods to a small load on their web-based platform.

In short, the Silicon Prairie is helping move goods not just regionally but around the world – creating innovation and technologies on which the world’s biggest brands depend.

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