If a package absolutely must be delivered overnight, why not send it for same- day delivery if the price is the same?

One Florida company is asking that question and betting that Florida businesses will see things its way.Special Delivery Systems Inc. of Orlando is launching a same-day delivery service for small packages statewide at rates competitive with overnight prices and plans to be on line and fully operational by early August.

The company also will offer statewide overnight delivery at cut rates and overnight service nationwide through volume agreements with larger carriers as an added service.

Jim Call, executive vice president of Special Delivery, explained that in Florida the company eventually will operate through a ground network of 350 to 400 private contractors.

The contractors will be trained by the company, and will work under exclusive agreements, wearing the Special Delivery uniforms.

"We need (people who are) a few cuts above," Mr. Call said. "We are looking for entrepreneurs who will eventually be marketers with fleets of trucks."

Independent contractors will share 50 percent of the revenue from each shipment, broken down as 30 percent for pickup and 20 percent for delivery, added Sam Majzoub, president and chief executive officer of Special Delivery.

"We are paying a high rate to ensure contractor loyalty and to make sure that they can cover their expenses." Mr. Majzoub said.

Mr. Majzoub started to develop the company concept and software two years ago, after his previous employer, Postmasters Inc. of Tampa, Fla., tried unsuccessfully to operate a similar business.

He said same-day service is needed for the $680 million overnight delivery market in Florida, but until now high labor costs and a lack of automation prevented it.

"Where we differ from (Postmasters) is automation: They couldn't keep up with their business," Mr. Majzoub, also a former systems analyst at United Parcel Service, asserted.

"Our computer system will handle the billing, tracking, data processing and customer service, and cut our labor force by 65 percent," he said.

Orlando will serve as the hub, with other sorting stations in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and eventually Pensacola and Gainesville. The company initially will operate four leased Cessna 210 aircraft.

Eventually, assuming success in Florida, the service will franchise out to other states, said Robert Wilson, director of marketing.

"If we can make it work in Florida, it will work in any state." Mr. Wilson said. "Florida has two time zones and a large land mass."

So how will a small company compete with the well-capitalized big boys - Airborne Freight Corp., Federal Express Corp. and UPS?

Mr. Majzoub explained that Special Delivery can keep overhead and rates low by working closely with contractors, pushing automation and keeping the corporate staff as small as possible.

"Until someone comes up with a 'Beam-me-up-Scotty machine,' we'll be the market in Florida," Mr. Majzoub said.