The Greater New Jersey Motorcoach Association (GNJMA) is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
The need for the regional organization has become more evident during the pandemic, President Tim Stout believes.
“What’s nice about the association is, even though we’re going through a very tough time right now, we’ve been helping our members stick together on various issues and have given them knowledge and education to help them throughout this pandemic,” said Stout, owner of Stout’s Transportation.
Just like the motorcoach industry is primarily family-owned businesses, the GNJMA board has been involved through multiple generations. Stout is a third-generation operator. His grandfather began in the school bus business, and his dad segued to the motorcoach business. He’s been on the board for more than a decade. Stout’s dad served on the board.
A smaller focus to start
GNJMA began with a smaller focus, under the moniker Atlantic City Bus Operators Association (ACBOA). The ACBOA entered the scene in 1981 so private bus operators would have a more unified voice on matters of collective interest in the Atlantic City Marketplace.
Over the years, with no active New Jersey Association in place, the ACBOA’s role grew beyond the scope of Atlantic City and, in January 2004, the association expanded to become a regional organization known as the Greater New Jersey Motorcoach Association.
The association was founded by a small group of bus owners: Jeff Weintraub (Harran Transportation), Carl Bieber (Bieber Tourways), Tom Dugan (Safety Bus Service), Sid Kushan (Suburban Coach), Mitch Sussman (Starr Tours), Frank Gallagher (Community Coach), and Dan Mercadante (Leisure Line).
Anniversary Gala plans
Weintraub and Sussman were the first president and vice-president, respectively. The catalyst for the group forming was Steve Norton of Resorts International. He invited the group in for a meeting to discuss Atlantic City and busing needs.
So, it is only fitting that the board planned the 40th Anniversary Gala at Resorts in October, during the planned Annual Meeting dates.
The association is led by a committed board of directors composed of motorcoach company owners and other professionals. Stout has been at the helm since 2011. Pattie Cowley is the organization’s executive director.
“Strong state associations help support national associations. The better communication we have at the state level with government and elected officials, the better it is for the national associations,” Stout said.
Unity pays off
The unity is paying off. GNJMA is a growing regional association with members that belong to Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York associations.
“We’ve seen in this past year that our voice hasn’t been heard on a national level. What that has made us realize is that we need to continue to set up meetings with all these state agencies to realize who we are, what we do and how important we are. I think we’ve got to start small in the state associations and, hopefully, that’ll grow to national recognition of our industry,” Stout said.
The board also includes Dugan, a former past president who is the only founding member still active since the ACBOA days. Other past presidents include Weintraub, Sussman, Dan Mercadante, John Mercadante, Jot Bennett and Tom JeBran of Trans-Bridge Lines, who is also a current board member.
‘A bigger reach’
The GNJMA is a representative group of dynamic leaders in the motorcoach, casino and travel industry. The organization’s mission is to represent bus operators and owners on matters of collective interest in the state of New Jersey and its region.
The association works in cooperation with industry associations, local, state and federal agencies, legislators, vendors, attractions, destinations and other entities to promote the betterment and welfare of the industry, members, and association objectives.
It also takes proactive steps in promoting safety in the motorcoach industry by sponsoring safety workshops for bus drivers, driver excellence award programs, inspection workshops and industry professional awards. One of its recent successes was the creation of a scholarship program for members’ employees and their families.
“All of us working together allows us a bigger reach than just being individual companies,” Stout said, noting that along with bus operators, the membership includes destination and OEM partners.
“We really feel that we’re set up for growth at the Greater New Jersey Motorcoach Association going forward,” he said.