In its busiest April ever, the Georgia Ports Authority moved 364,481 twenty-foot equivalent container units, pushing its fiscal year-to-date totals to 3.7 million TEUs, an increase of 8.7 percent (300,815 TEUs) compared to the same period in FY2018.
More than 25,000 businesses move cargo through Georgia’s deepwater ports, including many Georgia-owned and operated small businesses that rely on the state’s ports to reach global markets.
One small business seeing exponential growth is Ringgold-based flooring company Happy Feet International, which saw a 282 percent increase in 2018 compared to 2017.
Happy Feet owner Casey Johnson worked for a major U.S. flooring company for more than two decades before deciding to take a chance and strike out on his own seven years ago.
“I saw an opportunity in the marketplace and felt like the time was right,” he said. “At first, it was just my son and I, importing vinyl plank flooring from China and Korea.”
“Now Happy Feet International has four warehouses and 50 employees. We’ve gone from zero to $40 million in sales. And we are continuing to grow.”
Starting in the Southeast, Happy Feet has grown into the Midwest and is expanding out.
“Every year we go another couple hundred miles,” Johnson said. “By 2020, we hope to have three or four new distribution centers in four different states.”
Attention to detail and an emphasis on customer service has helped build that success, he said.
“Our focus is on trying to exceed customer expectations,” he said. “We’re a small company doing business with small businesses, while our competitors are all billion-dollar companies.
We have an advantage in that we can relate to our customers, their concerns and their needs.”
Just as Johnson’s insistence on going the extra mile for customers has paid off in a big way, so has his reliance on the Port of Savannah, which he says has more than met his expectations.
“I love this port,” he said. “We tried using different ports, but there’s really no comparison.”
Johnson said Happy Feet products move more quickly through the Port of Savannah, and with fewer issues. “Next year, we’re expanding to Delaware, Colorado and Texas, and we plan to keep using the Port of Savannah, even to Texas.”
Johnson said his company’s goal is to be the best vinyl plank supplier in the world, not the biggest — at least not yet.
“We’re just simple people from the Midwest. We hustle hard every day. We have a great product and great partners, including the Port of Savannah.”