Trucker Has Big Plans for the Garden State

With $50 million in fresh financing, Lily Transportation looks to expandNEWARK – Lily Transportation Corp., a major Northeast trucking firm, has ambitious expansion plans in New Jersey.

The Massachusetts-based company this month lined up $50 million in financing to increase its presence here and in New England. The financing came from Textron Financial Corp. of Alpharetta, Ga., in the form of a revolving credit facility.

“New Jersey is the fastest-growing market for our services,” says John Simourian, chairman and CEO of Lily, which has its state headquarters in Newark and offices in seven other locations in the Garden State. The privately held firm, which Simourian says had revenues of about $90 million last year, has a fleet of about 3,000 trucks. Nearly a quarter of them, or about 700, are in New Jersey.

Arthur Mavromatis, vice president of the firm’s New Jersey operations, says trucking accounts for about 60 percent of Lily’s business in the state and is growing at about 30 percent a year. The rest comes from truck leasing, rentals and maintenance services, and is expanding more slowly.

Big Lily clients include Wakefern Food Corp. of Elizabeth, the owner of ShopRite brand stores, and Whole Foods Market Inc., a chain of organic foods stores based in Austin, Texas. Although Wakefern owns and runs its own fleet of vehicles, it uses Lily to move goods to and from remote locations across the Northeast. “Lily has a niche here that is difficult for us to provide,” says Charles Amorosi, Wakefern’s director of transportation and traffic.

Lily could add new vehicles here or acquire another company. Mavromatis says a deal may be finalized in the next 60 to 90 days. Last July, Lily acquired APA Truck Leasing of North Bergen for an undisclosed price, adding a couple hundred trucks to its fleet.

“Unless we make a strategic acquisition, our growth will not be as good this year” as last, Simourian says. Acquisitions both increase the firm’s fleet size and bring in multiyear contracts; Simourian says most Lily’s contracts are for five or more years.

Lily began its New Jersey operations in 1984 with the purchase of Champion Truck Leasing in Newark, a 300-vehicle operation. Lily now has about 200 employees in the state; Mavromatis expects that number to grow as his business expands.

He and Simourian are generally bullish about business prospects in the state. They point to its central location in the Boston-Washington corridor and an increasing trend among companies to outsource their distribution requirements.

Lily’s track record helped it win the $50 million financing line from Textron, with whom it has had a relationship for nearly two years. Russ Brant, president of Textron Financial’s business-credit division praises Lily for its “high-caliber management team” and market reputation. That is why his company is “excited to support the company’s organic and acquisitive growth initiatives,” Brant says.

However, Amorosi sees “more problems than anything else” as he surveys the prospects for truckers in the state. He worries about “the impending possibility that our state may make our toll roads private.”

In that case, “the prospect of increased tolls and decreased service will no longer be in the hands of the government, but in the hands of private companies,” says Amorosi, who is president of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association in East Brunswick. “What leverage do we have any more in the trucking industry?” The sale or lease of the toll roads would be the “wrong thing to do to truckers and the motoring people,” he adds.

Lily executives have worries of their own. Simourian says New Jersey’s fiscal problems make it “more than likely” that the state will raise taxes, and Mavromatis calls the condition of many Garden State roadways “absolutely deplorable” and says “they add to our cost.”

Nonetheless, the folks at Lily are upbeat about their prospects here this year and next. Says Simourian: “Normally, in a presidential election year, the economy is strong.”

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