An upstart trucking broker with Tennessee roots is expanding in the Twin Cities.

Access America Transport, which already employs 145 people here, just moved into a 30,000-square-foot office in Brooklyn Park and plans to hire 500 more sales staff over the next five years, the company is expected to announce Friday.

Sales workers at the company spend all day on the phone either matching trucks with manufacturers, coordinating shipments or selling the company's services. When everything else is done, they make cold calls to drum up more business.

"This industry isn't rocket science," said Steve Cox, who in 2006 opened the Minneapolis office, which has grown from two people. "Someone that is willing to work very hard will bring business in for themselves and they will grow with our company."

Cox opened the Minnesota office for Access America because he knew one of the founders from a past job in Nashville. The company wants to expand here, Cox said, because of the quality of the state's workforce.

About half the firm's Minnesota workforce came through an internship program at St. Cloud State University, where Cox is an alumnus, and the company plans to announce a partnership with the university Friday.

"We've just found an incredible young workforce in Minnesota that's willing to get the job done, manage accounts well, break open new accounts through sales," said Weston Wamp, a spokesman for Access America.

The company competes with other third-party logistics firms like C.H. Robinson in Eden Prairie, Coyote Logistics in Chicago and TQL in Cincinnati. They don't own any trucks or any freight, but they offer a service by coordinating shipments for companies.

Maligned by truckers as middlemen who control too much of the business, brokers make good money if they persist because they provide reliability. The firm's median wage for employees with two years of experience is $71,000 per year.

But the job is complex. Brokers must repeatedly bid on big jobs, negotiate by phone with manufacturers and truckers, coordinate up to 15 shipments at once and even take calls from lost truckers in the middle of the night.

The company was founded in 2002 by three friends in Chattanooga, Tenn. The firm says it did $365 million in sales in 2012, twice as much as in 2011.

Adam Belz • 612-673-4405 Twitter: @adambelz