A lot of industries are struggling because of the nation’s shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a few are pretty much closed like the ground transportation companies.
“Black Tie Transportation started in High Point in 1989 by Brenda Wilson who saw a need for limousines in the area, specifically towards the furniture market,” said Black Tie Transportation’s chief strategy officer, Jeff Shanker. “She ran the business out of her home for a little over a decade.”
In the years since, Black Tie has grown to be a major company with not just a series of cars to take people places but mini-buses and large, team-transport buses.
“Normally March, April and May are extremely busy for us with the school trips — kids going on field trips to Florida, to DC, to New York on their education experiences,” Shanker said. “We’re also coming up on baseball season, whether it’s the High Point Rockers, the Greensboro Grasshoppers, the Winston-Salem Dash, the Carolina Cobras indoor football, the youth soccer leagues – all of those people that we transport, passenger ground transportation, all of that stopped.”
Over the years, schools and sports teams saw how utilizing professional carriers, instead of buying their own bus, made more sense.
“There’s economies of scale to it. They don’t have the ability to maintain the vehicles, nor insure the vehicles, and also it separates liability from them, so if there is an incident, they’re protected by way of insurance,” Shanker said.
There are some things businesses like his can do, over the next few months, to survive including some possible help from the recent relief bill that came out of Congress.
“Right now, we have a real challenge with the government in that the passenger ground transportation industry, travel and tourism, is not excluded, but is interpreted to be within this relief package, and interpretation leads to a lot of ambiguity and a lot of concern,” Shanker said. “We need our local congressmen and senators to put the passenger ground transportation, the travel and tourism industry, specifically in the bill. We bring the people from the airports to the hotels, from the hotels out for dinner so they can entertain. A true staple of the industry.”
The people at Black Tie understand why the government has issued stay-at-home orders and back those.
“Right now, public safety prevails, and we acknowledge that we should stay at home. We should shelter in place. Let’s allow the curve to flatten. Let’s allow our businesses to get back to what they need to be,” Shanker said. “Let’s allow our people to get healthy so that, in two to four weeks, our business will strive again. Business travel will be back up. Our executives and our managers will be traveling for business. Our sports teams from youth to adults will be traveling. They’ll want to compete, and that’s what we’re hoping for.”
See the kind of vehicles Black Tie runs and how much their business has been affected by the shutdown in this Small Business Spotlight.