In the late ’70s, Terry Wills took on a job that would forever change the trajectory of his family-owned trucking company.
After operating for decades as a cartage and residential moving service, the Smiths Falls-based business was approached by one of the town’s heavyweight manufacturers: the Hershey chocolate factory, which needed a logistics firm to distribute its special Christmas products that year.
“The rest was history,” Wills says. “That was really the start of our commercial distribution work.”
That business line continued to grow over the years, leading Wills Transfer to close its moving and storage branch in 2014, completing its pivot to totally focus on third-party logistics and warehousing.
The evolution came amid growth in the region’s network of distribution and fulfilment centres and positioned the company – which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year – to capitalize on booming demand for logistics services, fuelled by the rise of e-commerce and major retailers rethinking their supply chains.
Now in its fourth generation of family ownership, Wills Transfer operates four locations across eastern Ontario – Smiths Falls, Ottawa, Perth and Brockville.
Repeatedly ranked as one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies, the firm has nearly doubled its workforce in recent years to 200 employees on the strength of contracts from multinationals such as 3M and Shell that operate in eastern Ontario.
Wills says he expects to see further growth for his industry in the coming years as companies become more reluctant to rely on international and overseas supply chains.
“There's going to be a move, I'm quite sure, to ‘regionalize’ things again and not be as reliant on overseas business, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic,” he adds. “That really bodes well for our commercial warehousing industry and our distribution industry because there's going to be some great opportunities.”
While the success of the company and milestone of 75 years in business is not lost on Wills, he says he is excited to see what the next chapter will look like for the company, which shows no signs of slowing down.
“If we can help our customers be successful, efficient and contain cost and grow, then it also helps us,” he adds. “The whole eastern Ontario economy will benefit.”