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Old guard soldiers on

Rob Sabo

Bender Group has been a third-party logistics provider in Reno since 1945, when founder Frank Bender started the company with his father, Edwin, shortly after returning from World War II.

After more than 63 years in business and the arrival of several large competitors in the region, Bender Group continues to grow and add new business divisions.

Warehousing and distribution has always been the backbone of the company, Businesss Development

Manager Jared Lindwall says. Bender Group started with 60,000 square feet of space six decades ago and now occupies 1.2 million square feet in northern Nevada, Southern California and Virginia.

Bender operates 200,000 square feet at its corporate address on Parr Circle, another 200,000 on Parr

Boulevard, and has two locations in Sparks totaling 200,000 square feet. In July Bender opened a 420,000-square-foot warehouse in Riverside, and it has staffed a 200,000-square-foot warehouse in Winchester, Va. since 1996.

The company employs 240 workers.

Despite the recession, Bender grew by 30 employees last year with addition of the Riverside operation,

which serves as a West Coast distribution point for global paint and coatings company AkzoNobel. The company’s most recent endeavor is Bender International, which provides custom brokerage and freight forwarding services.

“That is a key for us in continuing to expand our service offerings and be competitive, not only in the local market but on an international scale,” Lindwall says. “We are really able to offer our customer base a solution from manufacturing to the shelf. We were always able to handle the domestic stuff, and now we really have that full chain from manufacturing through to delivery.”

Growing competition from other 3PL companies, such as ITS Logistics and Jacobson Logistics, have impacted Bender’s business, but company President Steve Reid says the competition has helped Bender

become more efficient.

“It has really spread out the customer base amongst the providers,” he says. “Before we were the only providers, so it was almost like a monopoly. But then other companies started popping up, and that competition is good for the customers to have a competitive environment. But obviously you don’t win all the bids, so you don’t get as much work.”

With the economic downturn, shipping volume is off, but warehouse storage has increased.

“The throughput isn’t there like it used to be,” Lindwall says. “Product is still coming to us inbound, but it is sitting here longer than normal. There is not the same labor activity, so it is not as profitable.”

Reid says that in an economic downturn companies typically turn to third-party logistics providers to control costs. The challenge for Bender, he says, is to position itself so it emerges from the recession in a growth pattern.

Bender operates a transportation arm as well and has provided truckload services throughout the years.

For more than 30 years, the company acted as ramp agent for Union Pacific, offloading double-stacked rail containers, loading them onto semi trailers and trucking them to their final destination. But it has left that business behind.

“No matter what a customer comes to us with, we have been open to taking that on and finding out what the requirements are,” Lindwall says. “If it is something we can make some money at, we’ll take a try.”

Reid says another key to Bender’s longevity is its long history of using computer management systems. The company had computers in the 1960s and early ’70s, he says, and for the last seven years has used an in-house warehouse management system written and designed by third-generation employee Chris Bender.

“That has provided us the flexibility to stay ahead of the market and keep up with customer requirements,” Reid says.