CENTRAL POINT — Combined Transport has been looking for ways to expand its business and move its operations closer to Interstate 5.

CENTRAL POINT — Combined Transport has been looking for ways to expand its business and move its operations closer to Interstate 5.

The local trucking firm that operates across North America took strides in both directions when it acquired Blackwell Consolidation owned by Mike DeSimone in a deal closed Dec. 31 and announced Friday.

In addition to the 31-acre Blackwell yard, recently developed rail spur and dock, as well as 40 trucks and more than 50 trailers, Combined Transport will take on 75 employees and a book of 150 primarily agricultural customers. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

"This allows us to expand into areas where we haven't operated before," said Combined Transport President Mike Card. "We've operated a few dry vans, but this will be our first foray into refrigerated trailers."

It also moves at least part of the company's holdings closer to the West Coast's primary north-south transportation artery. "This is a double-bonus for Combined Transport, as well as Blackwell," Card said. "Not only is it a pretty good property for our expansion, but it will also bring better buying power to Blackwell."

The consolidated enterprise now has a fleet of 450 trucks and 600 employees, including a front office and support staff of 150. Scott Fowler will remain general manager for the Blackwell operation.

Combined Transport's 15-acre headquarters terminal is on Crater Lake Avenue. The company acquired 17 acres northeast of the freeway near the Blackwell Road exit just north of Central Point in 2007, but Card figures it will be years before the zoning changes can be made to shift his operations to the site and couldn't pass up the Blackwell deal. "One of the key parts of the deal was the property on Blackwell Road," Card said. "We still have that other piece of property, but between the two properties our intention is to eventually move our entire operation out there."

Combined Transport is known for its flatbed trailers traversing the continent with unusual heavy-haul loads, glass and windmill components. Its logistics division provides brokerage services. "We will continue operating Blackwell as a separate entity, but with a better pricing structure, capital and financial strength and the network workers, I think there are opportunities to expand the division and grow."

He said the acquisition will allow the company to recruit additional drivers and give its logistics center more flexibility. "It's a good thing for the valley to keep those employees working," Card said. "It's a good thing for everybody."

DeSimone is exiting the trucking business for the second time in two years.

In April 2011, he sold his $28 million Cross Creek Trucking firm to Sarasota, Fla.-based Integrated Freight. The Florida company lost its equipment to creditors, and DeSimone's longtime customers were left in a lurch. DeSimone launched a new carrier and quickly rebuilt the business, but his long-term interests remained in developing the former Southern Oregon Sales packing house along the rail tracks in south Medford, which he acquired for $2.3 million in May 2009.

Although the recession and soured deal with Integrated Freight slowed the remaking of the operation into what is now known as Southern Oregon Select, DeSimone is committed to his passion of expanding the region's agricultural activity.

Alongside his sons Joe and Sam — both in their late 20s — DeSimone is now working 100 acres of pears, peaches and apples on property acquired from the Reuter Fruit descendents and leased from Charlie Swingle on Fern Valley Road.

"My ambitions have really changed," he said.

To that end, DeSimone began discussing a sale last fall. "It's not often you have an opportunity to purchase a friend's trucking business," Card said. "(Mike) has spent most of his life promoting the trucking industry with honor and integrity."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.