Rendering of Planned Building on Brown Appliance Site
(Today’s article is by guest writer Heather Ryerson, Photos also by Heather with the exception of Brown Appliance)
We first told you about Axle Logistics in 2019 when they purchased property in North Knoxville, began construction on Central Street in 2020 and then again in 2021 when they opened that location barely 18 months ago. At the time they moved into their current building, the Hull Dobbs Building, they were already overcrowded and had to quickly expand development in the basement to provide more open office space.
The company was recently named a Top Workplace Award winner by Knox News. The award is based completely on employee feedback and the surveys are independently administered. This is in addition to being named on the top 5000 list of growing businesses by Inc. in 2022. This marked their 7th inclusion on the list since their inception just 10 years ago.
In recent months, they purchased the neighboring block where the former Brown Appliance building, on the corner of Pruitt and Central, currently stands. Design Innovation Architects and Denark Construction, who worked on the Hull Dobbs Building project, are set to complete this project as well. I sat down with Ali Fraley, VP of Learning and Development, who has been with Axle for eight years and has been part of the exponential growth of the company. We talked about the plans for this project and more.
She said that while they do not have a start date for construction, they do have outdoor renderings and know that they plan to construct a five-story building that will house around 900 employees. It will include many of the employee-friendly amenities their current space has, but on a larger scale. The new build will have a half-court basketball court with walking track above, a sauna and larger workout space with plans for a rooftop outdoor space with large floors of office space and glass walls to demonstrate the transparency and openness they foster at Axle.
One obstacle they face in this budding project and this area of Central Street is parking for those new employees. Axle is working with the city to determine how they can safely and affordably bring more parking to the area. They realize this is an impactful development and plan to continue to uphold their value of giving back and making a positive impact on the surrounding businesses.
I was intrigued by many of the things I saw as I toured the building, and I might’ve considered requesting a job application when I saw the money booth that is currently set up as an incentive/reward for a lucky employee. There are other things they do to boost morale and recognize the hard work that the staff do every day. I personally loved the gongs on 2 of the floors. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to hit one myself as that privilege is reserved for employees to share and celebrate new partnerships and sales.
Other amenities you don’t see every day at an office building are a putting green, fire pit area and game room that are popular for not just blowing off steam, but also alternative places to make sales calls and break some of the monotony of sitting at a desk. The large fish tank downstairs and water feature on the entry level are also calming and peaceful ways to enliven the spirit of the workplace. The day I came in, there was a food vendor out front for employees to enjoy and they bring in area food trucks weekly to provide lunch, while encouraging staff to cross the street on Fridays and support the food truck park, Central Filling Station.
Another exciting development is their partnership with U.T.’s Haslam College of Business to create and maintain the college’s Sales Performance Lab. This partnership is giving opportunities to students at UT to earn 3 credit hours while learning about the business model of Axle Logistics as well as serving an internship that could become employment after graduation. Axle sees the potential to keep the talent that UT is developing in the business department in our community, but also desires to give students a chance to get real-life, hands-on experience in the field of logistics, whether they use it locally or to further their career elsewhere.
While the Brown Appliance building project is in the works, a place to house their growing staff will be found on Magnolia Ave. The building owned by John Macready and John Roethlisberger is being renovated and will house around 200 employees in the 14,000 sq foot area. This will allow them to add more staff to their team and to bring back the accounting department that is currently off site. Axle is thoughtfully developing the space with an open concept matching their current building’s layout with hopes it will hold appeal for another tenant when Axle moves out of the temporary location.
Premier Construction is working on this project and DIA is the architect designing the space. They plan to have this space ready for employees by January 2023.