Maine voters resoundingly returned industry champion, Sen. Susan Collins, to office for a fifth term on Nov. 3. The Republican prevailed against a reported deluge of out-of-state funding for her opponent.
Collins is a leading champion for economic relief sought by the motorcoach industry. In July, she introduced the $10 billion Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act, S.4150.
Her victory is a win for the interests of the many small, family-owned businesses that make up the majority of the private bus and motorcoach industry.
“This is an affirmation of the work that I’m doing in Washington to fight hard every day,” Collins said Nov. 4 in Bangor, Maine.
She gave that speech outdoors against the backdrop of two motorcoaches used for her campaign. In her comments, Collins gave a shout out to the industry for its support, and thanked “dear friends” Joe and Sue Cyr, and Jason Briggs.
The Cyrs are the owners of the multi-generational Cyr Bus Line, based in Old Town. Briggs, is Vice President of Business Development at VIP Tour & Charter Bus Co. in Portland., the only women-owned motorcoach business in the state.
Both companies have provided motorcoach transportation for her campaigns over the years. Collins’ ties to them began before she entered politics.
On Oct. 15, a dozen Maine tour buses came out in support for the longtime senator in Augusta, where she faced off against three challengers in a candidate debate.
“We lined up the entrance area to the Civic Center. It was not public, but it was just a kind of a booster for her to see that we supported her and we were there,” said Briggs. “We had our lights on, horns blaring and everything flashing as she rode in on her bus. We surprised her.”
Afterward, she wrote a note explaining how moved she was to see the line of buses as she arrived.
They were there to support her reelection campaign because of her tireless work to secure economic relief for the private motorcoach and passenger vessel companies that are such a crucial part of Maine’s tourism sector.
The parking entrance to the debate was lined with coaches from VIP Tour & Charter Bus Company, Cyr Bus Line, Northeast Charter & Tour Company and Custom Coach. These Maine small businesses sent the caravan of motorcoaches to drive home the point that the Maine senator cares about small businesses and is working hard to rescue the motorcoach industry from an economic cliff.
All of the Maine companies work together, said Dana Laughlin. He oversees charters/dispatch for Cyr Bus Line — with a fleet of 240 school buses and 20 coaches — and has been with the company for 35 years.
A small-business champion
“Sen. Collins has supported small business since she was elected, from day one,” Briggs said of why these companies are rolling out in support of their longtime senator. “She continues to do that, not only by supporting the motorcoach industry in Maine, but by supporting the industry across the country.”
Collins reached across the aisle to work with Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island to provide a lifeline for these businesses in Maine and others like them all across the country. In all, 80,000 employees have been furloughed and many multi-generational businesses are in danger of closing.
Collins successfully built a broad bipartisan coalition in both houses of Congress, with 58 senators and 256 representatives supporting the CERTS Act. She was able to get more than two dozen senators from both parties to sign a letter asking congressional leadership to include the CERTS Act in any relief measure they take up.
The CERTS Act would authorize $10 billion in emergency economic relief, including grants, for America’s bus, motorcoach and passenger ferry industries impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Motorcoaches play an essential role not just in the tourist economy. They move the nation’s military and evacuating victims from floods, wildfires, and even train derailments. They are a critical part of the nation’s ground transportation infrastructure.
“We just want her to know that we support her and thank her for at least putting the CERTS program together,” said Briggs. His friendship with Collins’ family began with her dad, a state senator. The company provided a motorcoach for her first campaign in 1994, an unsuccessful bid for governor. Voters elected Collins to the U.S. Senate for the first time in 1996.
Her relationship with the Cyrs goes back many years, too. Collins and her husband have a lake home near theirs.
“She has been a big supporter of us and the industry as a whole,” Briggs said.
Maine operators continue to place their hope in Collins, who has never missed a vote in her 24 years representing Maine in the Senate. In her next term, Collins will chair the powerful Senate Ways and Means Committee if the Republicans maintain control of the Senate.