ACL Airshop’s Tony Morgan discusses what it takes to excel in the air cargo industry


Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan was raised in Annapolis, Maryland where he attended St. Mary’s High School.  At St. Mary’s, Anthony was an All Conference football player and a standout on the nationally ranked lacrosse team.  In the classroom he was an honor roll student.

Upon graduation from St. Mary’s in 1986, Mr. Morgan accepted an invitation to study and play lacrosse at Cornell University.  While at Cornell, Anthony made the Dean’s List, became a student-teacher, and was a four-year letterman on the varsity lacrosse team, twice earning All Ivy honors and once being named to the All America team.  Mr. Morgan was also captain of the 1991 team and was awarded the coveted Cornell University Hall of Fame Leadership Award.  He graduated in 1991 with a B.S. in Business Management and Marketing.  After college Anthony played one year of professional lacrosse with the Baltimore Thunder.

In 1994, Anthony began his career in the aviation industry with Airline Container Leasing (ACL).  Starting out as an accounts manager, he studied the business and the industry, and worked his way up the corporate ladder.  In 1997, an opportunity to gain equity in an ACL spin-off landed him in Greenville, SC.  In Greenville, Mr. Morgan started D.O.T. Tiedown (DOT), a cargo control manufacturing company that supplies the world’s largest airlines and trucking companies with cargo tiedown equipment.  Mr. Morgan sold D.O.T. Tiedown in 2001 to Vinci Corp and agreed to stay on as President / CEO.

After four years as President / CEO of Airline Container Leasing and D.O.T. Tiedown, Anthony assembled a group to purchase the companies back from Vinci Corp.  The transaction was completed in 2005.  Focusing on leasing, sales, manufacturing, repairs and most importantly customer service, the company quickly grew into the industry leader.  In 2007, Mr. Morgan orchestrated a merger with the ACL’s largest competitor in Europe, Airshop.

ACL Airshop was born.  As President / CEO, Anthony and his team have guided ACLAS to the top of the industry.  ACLAS is the only true one-stop-shop for air cargo products.  The industry leader in ULD leasing, sales, repairs, and net / strap manufacturing, ACLAS is positioned like no other to anticipate and fulfill the needs of airlines, charters, and freight forwarders.

Mr. Morgan is active in the Easley community as a youth baseball and football coach, member of the Greenville Country Club, and St. Luke’s Church.  His hobbies include golf, surfing, hunting, fishing, and farming.  But most of all, Anthony dedicates his free time to his wife Nori, and his four sons.

How are companies like Amazon changing the way you do business? 

Our business model is really built for companies like Amazon – we live in a fast paced world and we are a fast paced company – we have air cargo equipment where you need it, when you need it.  The reason companies like Amazon are successful are because they have everything you need in one place and you can have it right away.  We are exactly the same in that regard – no wonder we form such a nice partnership with Amazon.

Why Easley? Why not Greenville or Charleston? Are there any benefits there?

When we started DOT Tiedown, the manufacturing division of ACL Airshop, our only requirement was to be in middle of the textile belt – we could have wound up in Greenville, NC or Dalton, GA – but we fell in love with Greenville, SC and Easley had plenty of manufacturing space and qualified employees readily available.  The one thing that disappoints me about Easley and Pickens County is the way they tax manufacturing companies.  They place a higher tax rate on manufacturing.  This county was built on manufacturing yet now they penalize it.  We provide over 100 jobs in Easley, you would think the city and county would be want to keep us here.

What trends do you see in the cargo business that will influence your future growth?

Airlines are trying to maximize profits in very competitive markets.  This includes carrying cargo on passenger aircraft and point to point cargo routes.  We are uniquely positioned to capitalize on these trends.  We offer one way short term leases on all of our air cargo containers and pallets.  Just like Hertz rent a car, you can pick up our equipment at one airport and drop it at another.   This is extremely convenient for the airlines and freight forwarders and we are the only company to offer this service.

Who needs your services? Is it the shippers, airlines, the product producers?

All of the above.  We are the only true one-stop-shop for air cargo equipment.  Airlines, freight forwarders, producers and even consumers.  Anyone who needs to move cargo on an airplane will use our equipment.

How much of your product is custom designed for the application?

Most of our equipment is governed by Technical Standard Orders originating from the FAA.  However, we do have an in-house Research and Development team that partners with local FAA DER’s to develop and implement solutions that are specific to our customer needs.

Why would a company buy from you? (As opposed to a competitor)

Three simple words QUALITY * SERVICE * PRIDE.  We have the highest quality products, the absolute best service in the industry and we take extreme pride in everything we do!  We also go the extra mile to learn about our customer’s business – so we are not just another vendor – but a business partner that can anticipate and fulfill the unique needs of each individual customer.  As previously mentioned, we will research and develop solutions that make our customers more efficient and profitable.  This intrinsic value in our customer relationships cannot be duplicated by other companies in our market space.

How is the expanding China market impacting your business (especially now that China is purchasing 737 passenger to cargo conversions)?

We have been ahead of the China curve establishing our facilities in HKG and PVG.  We have employees on the ground in China, who live in these markets.  They fully comprehend the culture and way of doing business, and they know the seasonality of the business and the major networks and routes.  Air cargo is 24/7/365 and so are we – if you have a last minute midnight charter – we will be there with the equipment you need – this is what we do.

What do you think is your greatest potential market?

Our greatest untapped market is the US Military.  The Air Mobility Command is the world’s largest cargo airline and we do not have that business yet.  I know for a fact that we can save the United States of America millions and millions of taxpayer dollars per year while providing higher quality products and better service.  It is only a matter of time until we earn this business.

Who are your competitors and what is there strength/weakness?

I do not see any competitors in our market space.  There are other companies that manufacture equipment, and some that repair equipment, and even a couple that lease equipment.  However, there is no other company that manufactures, leases, sells, repairs, and manages air cargo equipment like we do.  The best way to describe our company is we are the Walgreens for air cargo airlines.  We have a store at the airport that has everything you need, in one place, at your fingertips.

With the Ranger partnership, how will this impact your business and you personally?

The partnership with Ranger provides ACL Airshop with two things needed for any large company to grow successfully:  Capital for investment and expansion, Strong and proven management. Steve has a proven track record of taking good companies and making them great and taking great companies and making them phenomenal.  He has a blue print that works and everyone at ACL Airshop has bought in.  Sky is the limit.

As part of this feature, SCMFG spoke with Steve Townes, CEO of Ranger Aerospace and chairman of SC Aerospace.

When asked about ACL, Townes said “Tony Morgan and his team are exemplary entrepreneurs. We aim to help them take their company to double or triple its current size. Tony and I have known each other for over 17 years, we are great partners together.”

As the state’s aerospace sector expands, where do you see ACL Airshop fitting in?

What could disrupt this growth?  Our growth is not tied to the local level – it is more predicated on global economics.  With major offices in North America, South America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, we are poised to capitalize on what-ever part of our global economy is experiencing prosperity while mitigating our exposure to geographic recessions.  The one thing I would like to see from our South Carolina Aerospace sector is more networking to see how local SC companies can help each other.  I would also like to see tax incentives for manufacturing companies.

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