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BUS REPORT Fall 2010

Nearly A Century Later, Thomas Is Still Looking Ahead

As Thomas Built Buses approaches its 95th anniversary, it is appropriate to look back, to chronicle the company's history of contributions to the community and to the school bus industry. Well-paid jobs bolstering the local economy. Hundreds of thousands of school buses rolling off the assembly line. Countless contributions to local charities.

The company's values and the impact of those values, day by day for so many years, deserve to be recognized. While Thomas honors its past, the company is focusing on the future. Even in challenging economic times, Thomas leads the industry in innovation by developing hybrid, SCR and alternative fuel buses and by building the C2 plant, designed from the ground up to build an integrated school bus, evolving bus design to enhance driver comfort and ease of service.

Sure, times are tough. But there's real optimism at Thomas, based on a long track record of hard work, shared values and a clear understanding of what has made the company so successful. Talk to any Thomas employee, dealer or distributor, and you're likely to hear surprisingly consistent responses: "It's all about relationships."

The company's relationships with its employees. The employees' relationships with dealers. The dealers' relationships with their customers. The customers' relationships with their buses (typically 10 to 15 years per bus). Round and round they go, building relationships that, in many cases, extend through generations of Thomas employees.

VP of sales, marketing and service, Ken Hedgecock is a second generation Thomas employee, who started as a summer employee and has been with the company 35 years. It's not uncommon to see several family members employed by Thomas, carrying on the Thomas heritage through their own families. Several Thomas-employed families have total combined time with the company that exceeds 100 years of service. Second and even third generation employees aren't at all unusual at Thomas. In fact, a few employees had grandfathers who helped build streetcars.

"We care about each other," says Hedgecock. "We take care of each other. We're there in times of hardship, and we share the rewards in good times. That extends to our dealers and our customers, and it's true in the school bus industry as a whole. Everyone is focused on providing safe, reliable transportation for children."

In June, Thomas' founder, Perley A. Thomas, was inducted into the North American Railway Hall of Fame. "I think Mr. Thomas would be proud of where his company is today," said Hedgecock.

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