Running on Ice Podcast: Jeff Manno Shares Insights on FlexCold and Cold Storage Trends

An abbreviated interview:  Jeff Manno, FlexCold Co-founder, guest speaker on the Freight Waves podcast, Running on Ice with Mary O’Connell.  In this episode, Jeff Manno discusses cold storage trends, how FlexCold is positioned to grow, and why Jacksonville, Florida was selected for its first location.

Mary O’Connell:  I’m very excited today. I have been secretly following you guys, so I’m excited to dive into it today. Before we go too far down that rabbit hole, why don’t you give us a brief run down and what led you to start FlexCold?

Jeff Manno: I’ve spent the better part of 15 years in institutional real estate. Most recently worked for a company, Greystar Real Estate Partners, primarily focused on multi-family and student housing. A lot of experience in hotels, so operationally intensive real estate. What led me to FlexCold was the combination of real estate operations and the ability to integrate technology into the mix to really create a differentiated platform.

Mary O’Connell: How do you see this trajectory of cold storage growth to continue for the next year or so?

Jeff Manno: We look at it in a couple of ways. One, you have macro trends. One of those is aging cold storage infrastructure. A lot of what exists in the U.S. today is greater than 35 years old. We have infrastructure that is old, antiquated, and cannot efficiently service and house the product that exists.

That paired with a very dynamic food supply chain and changes in customer buying patterns. You know, really the space between production and consumption is just going to continue to put significant pressure on the infrastructure that exists today.

While you have a lot of new entrants and new supply that has come into the market most recently, we believe that there’s a long runway to continue to really create value in this space.  And it really is continuing to look at how to innovate from a real estate perspective, how to innovate and integrate the building design and programming within those four walls to pair up with the operational requirements and understanding the customers and their needs.


“Continuing to look at how to innovate from a real estate perspective, how to innovate and integrate the building design and programming within those four walls to pair up with the operational requirements and understanding the customers and their needs.”


Mary O’Connell: When you talk about innovation, what are some of the cooler innovations you guys have put into place in some of your operations that you’re the most proud of?

Jeff Manno: It starts with mobile racking, which basically you have racking that sits on a mobile base to create more densification of the asset. So, we built a 150,000 square foot warehouse here in Jacksonville with 25,000 pallet positions. Traditionally, with double-deep racking or other racking systems, you would have need to build another 75,000 to 80,000 square feet of real estate to house the same amount of pallet positions.

As you think about upfront costs, about energy usage, utilities, the profitability and the savings that can be generated over a long period of time when you’re building critical food infrastructure, that’s going to be around for 25, 30, 35 years. I think that is the basis of how we got into this.

You know, we’re not just operators, we’re not just technology integrators. we’re not just real estate guys. We’re really cross-functional in leveraging those disciplines to create value and sort of challenge how to best position this opportunity in a space; it’s critical to continue to look at ways to create more efficiencies.

Mary O’Connell: Why did you choose the Port of Jacksonville as your first location? We know the cold storage space is booming there but is lboming in other areas as well.

Jeff Manno: Our focus is the southeast. Why Jacksonville? A lot of the recent supply over the last three or four years that has come into the space has focused on larger tier-one markets – Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago.  We see Jacksonville as a high growth market.

You have JAXPORT that has made significant investments into deepening the harbor, investments in the infrastructure, and the physical infrastructure required to handle more volume. Logistically, Jacksonville is positioned to really access population in the Southeast. Great labor pool, great place to do business. The city of Jacksonville and the state have been phenomenal to work with. And we found a great piece of land that was three miles from one of the main terminals.

A fundamental thesis for us is people, population, and ports. You have a significant amount of food production that happens in the Southeast. Jacksonville was really at the middle that tier two growth market.

To listen to the full episode, click here> Running on Ice podcast with Jeff Manno

Learn more about FlexCold-Jacksonville> here.