NFI, the company in the I-20/59 Industrial Park that operates in the “Handy Hardware Building” has been in Meridian for six years.
Myself, I’ve been in Meridian in different capacities for different companies over the past 17 years. I came to NFI 3 ½ years ago and one of my first calls was to EMBDC. I knew of them from my previous experiences in other companies and I knew they were here to help us.
Our company started in 1932 as a hauling company out of Vineland, New Jersey. The family of the founder/owner still owns this privately held company. Today we have 15,000 employees in 29 states and Canada.
We now have a Distribution Division and a Transportation Division. The Transportation division includes our own brokerage company, our own drivers and our own tractor/trailers. The Distribution Division includes multiple regions with the Meridian operation being part of the Eastern Region. In our Meridian location, we service Lowe's, and more specifically, the appliances for Lowe's in several states.
We operate in Meridian with 100+ employees that are highly motivated and dedicated to making us successful. As an example, during the COVID-19 months over the past year or so, we were “wide-open”, even taking on additional locations in our service territory that other providers to Lowe's weren’t able to “man”.
Of all the NFI distribution operations that serve Lowe's, the Meridian location is the smallest, at 466,000 square feet. That said, our team here continues to set a standard within our company for this client.
In 2019 and 2020 we won our company’s Safety Awards. In 2018 & 2020 we were NFI’s “Facility of the Year”, within our network. We take great pride in these awards because it speaks directly to our workforce in Meridian and the quality work they do, day-in and day-out. An operation like ours is very busy, all the time. There are definitely times we need assistance from our local neighbors and leaders.
EMBDC is our first call for just about everything. Through EMBDC's Existing Industry Council, we’ve gotten to know a number of our local industry “partners”. EMBDC gets all of us together regularly for different programs, at different locations. When we need to know about local issues that may affect us or, when we need to contact someone locally that we don’t know, we call EMBDC. There have been a number of specific instances when we leaned on EMBDC to assist us.
At one point several years ago, we needed additional trailer spots because we were completely full with no other areas to store trailers, we were at 136% capacity. We called EMBDC and they were able to work out a deal with the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors to lease us a spot in the industrial park for a time to get us through our crunch. We ended up not needing the space but we really appreciated EMBDC and the supervisors acting quickly to help us out.
Another time we called EMBDC because, being on this hill, from time to time, we have an erosion issue with our site. It was over the past 6-8 months when we had an enormous amount of rain. We had an erosion issue that was affecting the northeast section of our property and EMBDC hooked us up to the Lauderdale County road manager. The supervisors approved the work needed to be done and the county jumped all over that issue, completely reworking that problem for us so it’ll never be an issue for us again.
Our most recent need for calling EMBDC was a fire water line was hit by a contractor laying pipe in the industrial park after business hours. When our sprinkler system lost pressure, it alarmed the fire department and they came out to make sure we were okay.
We still had a “river” of water flowing through our property from the busted water line and we needed it turned off and repaired asap. We called EMBDC. They called the City and got them out to our facility immediately and got the water turned off. EMBDC also found us a plumber that was able to repair the damaged pipe the next morning. EMBDC actually came out to our facility and stayed with us until all these folks showed up.
The short story is this – we probably don’t know all the EMBDC does, but we do know they always answer the phone and they always know who to connect us to.
NFI was originally only going to be in this location for a short time, but we got here and we can’t leave. This facility, in this location, in this community, with this workforce, is just too good for our company.
And by the way, we now think of our facility as the “NFI Building”.
Ed Frey is general manager of NFI Industries.