Master’s Transportation Inc. is in the people-moving business.
Think churches and schools. But that’s just the first layer. It’s also how the company got its start in the early 1990s.
Now, Kansas City-based Master’s Transportation sells, leases and repairs commercial buses and motor coaches. With additional business segments in municipal transit, government and tourism, second-generation owner John Goodbrake has built revenues to nearly $75 million among 13 offices nationwide.
One of those operations is in Ozark.
On the 4-acre lot, at 171 Shady Oak Drive, Master’s Transportation keeps an inventory of 140 units on any given day.
Among the largest local customers are Silver Dollar City, Big Cedar Lodge and Fisk Transportation LLC.
Big Cedar on Table Rock Lake, for instance, leases over 10 vehicles, primarily to shuttle guests from its Wilderness Club, says Master’s Vice President John Hatman, who’s over the Ozark office.
Silver Dollar City purchases buses.
“We’re their primary provider,” Hatman says, noting the Branson theme park operates 12-15 of its buses on any given day.
Master’s Transportation offices are scattered east to St. Louis, south to San Antonio and west to the Bay Area. The company recently opened in Portland, Oregon, and seven new markets are on the drawing board – from Seattle to Orlando, Florida.
“At this point, the churches are a smaller percentage,” says Goodbrake, who two years ago rose to recognition by Ernst & Young as Entrepreneur of the Year in the Central Midwest.
But the church is where it all began.
Goodbrake was raised by a preacher in Kearney, Nebraska. Like many rural congregations, these Baptists started a bus route to bring people to the services. It grew into its own venture.
Goodbrake bought into his dad’s business and was named president and CEO in 2000.
He moved the headquarters to Belton, south of Kansas City, by 2009. About six years prior, though, Ozark surfaced as a way to target the Springfield and Branson market. His team identified a void in southwest Missouri for a commercial bus provider.
That’s when Hatman came into the picture.
“We started the office around him,” Goodbrake says of the sales operation that began in Hatman’s home. “He was just the right guy.”
Hatman joined Master’s Transportation after a 13-year stint with Allied Bus in Nixa.
“John did a great job wrapping his hands around the community,” Goodbrake says.
The Ozark office is one of three full-service shops in the system. It now accounts for nearly a third of the company’s revenue.
Fisk Transportation owner Howard Fisk says 100 percent of his roughly 70-bus fleet are from Master’s Transportation.
“We bought buses across the country in years past,” Fisk says, noting Master’s customer service has won his business over the years. “This year, we bought 11 or 12 new ones. I ordered five buses this morning.”
A new bus, on average, sells for $60,000.
“Right now, we just buy them all outright,” Fisk says. “You spend a lot of money really quick. A million dollars can just flash out of your bank account.”
The largest bus Fisk operates seats 35 passengers. Others are 25, 18 or 14 passengers, and some have perimeter seats and wheelchair lifts.
On March 5, a Fisk driver took a group from the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce to Jefferson City. He says that’s a common daytrip for officials in the education, health care or manufacturing industries “to have their day on the hill.”
“They’re really handy for that,” Fisk says. “Moving 10, 20 or 30 people is what we do.”
Master’s Transportation has connected with Missouri State University, through Fisk. MSU students riding the Bear Line climb aboard one of the 16 buses sold by Master’s Transportation.
“We don’t provide drivers, just the equipment,” says Goodbrake.
Around the block
Direct competitors of Master’s Transportation are in Tulsa (National Bus Sales and Midwest Bus Sales), St. Louis (Central States Bus Sales) and North Little Rock, Arkansas (Summit Bus). The closest competitor to the Ozark operation is Midwest Transit Equipment, in Nixa, formerly Allied Bus Sales.
With eight employees, Hatman’s office covers the southeast region for Master’s Transportation. Staff in Arkansas and Texas work with his office, which services school districts from Omaha, Nebraska, to Wichita, Kansas, to Little Rock, Arkansas.
“It’s a contract business,” Hatman says.
Closer to home, the school districts in Ozark, Nixa, Rogersville, Chadwick and Bradleyville are clients.
Springfield Public Schools is noticeably absent. So is the City Utilities of Springfield transit division.
“The door really hasn’t been open,” Goodbrake says, noting his company’s been pursuing the business in Springfield.
The municipal business is growing, Goodbrake says, pointing to the city of Denver’s acquisition of over 230 buses last year.
“The goal is not only to start a rental location but get in the municipal space,” he says, citing similar potential in Houston and Galveston, Texas. “We’re really into big stuff. Anything that moves a lot of people.”
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