Belding’s Flat River Group exhibiting fast-paced growth

By Emilee Nielsen • Last Updated 12:04 pm on Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Belding’s Flat River Group was ranked No. 1,672 in a list of 5,000 fast growing private companies throughout the United States. The company is in distribution and shipping and acts as a go-between for smaller businesses and large eCommerce companies such as Amazon,TargetandWalmart. — Daily News/Emilee Nielsen

BELDING — A Belding business has been ranked and recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest growing private companies in America.

In its August issue, the magazine rated the top 5,000 fastest growing private companies throughout the nation. Flat River Group was ranked No. 1,672 with a three-year growth of 223 percent.

Flat River Group was founded in 2011 by brothers Matt and Jim Stahlin along with their business partner Matt Dean. The company is a value-added distributor of niche and mainstream consumer products and a full-service provider of warehousing and fulfillment services to a variety of eCommerce retailers in the U.S. and Canada.

Employees at Flat River Group in Belding box up orders of toys and board games to ship to eCommerce fulfillment centers, such as Amazon and Walmart, or straight to the consumer, depending on the situation.

Put simply, Flat River Group acts as a distribution warehouse for websites like Amazon,Walmart and Target fulfillment centers for toys and board games. Products from Flat River Group’s warehouse are also shipped directly to the customer.

“This spun out of a company that my brother and I both worked for,” Matt Stahlin said.  “We just kind of fell into this. It’s a great niche.”

He also said oftentimes the Flat River Group acts as a go-between for smaller companies and large vendors.

“Companies like Walmart and Toys R Us … you have to transmit data to them in the way that they want it sent,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that are hard for a small business.”

Flat River Group employs approximately 30 full-time employees and anywhere from 80 to 100 part-time employees throughout the course of the year. Matt Stahlin said local temporary employment agencies such as Peoplelink Staffing Solutions and Manpower have been an integral part of finding and hiring both part-time and full-time employees.

Since opening in 2011, Flat River Group has seen the city through a variety of changes, including the hiring of a new city manager, Bruce Brown. Matt Stahlin believes Brown’s employment in the city has really made a difference in the success of the company and that since his hiring, the city seems to approach local business in a different way.

“There’s no reason for this business to be here. It’s a little bit of a disadvantage from a shipping standpoint,” Matt Stahlin said. “When we started this business, we wanted to do it locally. It’s fun, when you’re successful, to see people outside of  work who you’re giving good opportunities to.”

Flat River Group in Belding has seen 223 percent growth since its inception in 2011, according to a recent ranking in Inc. Magazine of the 5,000 fastest growing companies in the United States. When the business first opened, the warehouse it occupies was nearly empty. Today, the same warehouse is filled with pallets stacked high with boxes of toys and board games.

Brown said the business has been an extremely important part of the community.

“They’re occupying a building that was vacant for a number of years. They are certainly providing employment opportunities, particularly during (holiday) seasons … when their inventory coming and going is substantially greater than the rest of the year,” Brown said. “I think they are an important part of the community.”

According to Dean, who is chief financial officer of Flat River Group, of the companies ranked by Inc. Magazine, Flat River Group is the third fastest growing company in Michigan.

“It was something that was pretty cool. We’re really excited about it,” he said. “It’s been really cool to contribute that to Belding.”

Dean was initially worried about recruiting people both inside and outside of Belding to work with the company but that there hasn’t been an issue with finding employees.

“The people who live in and around the area who’ve become longtime employees are really just incredible,” he said. “Part of the success of this company is to have local talent be able to excel and grow from day one in a startup and you see that reflected in the Inc. 5,000 rating.”

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