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Published: Monday, 1/31/2005

Firm specializes in many vehicles

BY HOMER BRICKEY
BLADE SENIOR BUSINESS WRITER
Two of Transportation Equipment Sales Corp. employees are Mike Shine, left, a body repair technician, and Steve Dreier, vice president of school and child care buses and vans. Two of Transportation Equipment Sales Corp. employees are Mike Shine, left, a body repair technician, and Steve Dreier, vice president of school and child care buses and vans.
SIMMONS / BLADE Enlarge

Transportation Equipment Sales Corp. is the best-kept secret in Oregon, said Noel Graham, president and chief executive officer.

But the supplier of commercial buses, school buses, limousine coaches, and specialty vehicles is known to many municipal and transit officials throughout the Midwest.

The firm, Mr. Graham said, sells or leases 350 to 400 vehicles a year from its two Oregon facilities, a 24,000-square-foot headquarters and service complex on Seaman Road and a 25,000-square-foot warehouse on Navarre Avenue. It includes Ohio, Michigan, and other states in its territory.

Mr. Graham, who has been with the company since 1968, bought the firm in 1974 from founder Jesse Brown, a former school bus driver who started selling hearses, ambulances, and buses in 1937.

The business has expanded, and the company sells vehicles from seven manufacturers over the Internet, including to foreign countries, the owner explained.

Transportation Equipment keeps as many as 125 new and used vehicles in stock and maintains a garage.

We pride ourselves on service, he said. If you sell it, you ought to service it.

A decade ago, Mr. Graham started a leasing division called TESCO Transportation LLC, and in recent years his firm has concentrated on commercial buses, shuttles, and specialty vehicles.

We have purchased several orders of buses through them, said James Gee, general manager of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority.

It s such an advantage having a bus vendor close to us. If we need a mechanic to hop in a car and drive across the river, they can do it, he said.

Another area customer is the YMCA of Greater Toledo, which has bought 14-passenger minibuses from the suburban Toledo firm.

I have been very pleased with not only the level of service but also their interest in making us happy, said Mark Brunsman, the Y s director of association services.

Transportation Equipment involves three generations of Grahams, including Mr. Graham s son, Noel, Jr., better known as Bud, who is vice president. The elder Mr. Graham said he values the firm s 30 employees. I ve always considered my employees as part of our family, he said.

New vehicles sold or leased by the company range from $35,000 to $250,000 for some specialty vehicles such as a mobile dental unit, Bud Graham said.

Orders from the Internet, he added, are increasing and account for as much as 20 percent of the firm s business.

I just got off the phone with a guy from Hungary, he said.

The elder Mr. Graham said sales are looking good for 2005. He s forecasting revenue of $12 million.

Last year was a good one for us, and 2005 should be our best year.

Contact Homer Brickey at:homerbrickey@theblade.comor 419-724-6129.

Small Business Profile is a weekly feature on local companies. To be considered, send information about your company to Small Business Profiles, Business News, The Blade, P.O. Box 921, Toledo, Ohio 43697-0921.



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