Southwest Coaches, Inc. played a key support role for the Minnesota National Guard when 3,300 soldiers and airmen were activated to ensure public safety during and after the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
The Minnesota National Guard recently lauded the operator for exceptional service provided during Operation Safety Net in March and April of 2021.
James Hey, Vice President of the Marshall, Minnesota transportation provider, says the partnership likely wouldn’t have happened if the company hadn’t reached out to the National Guard in May 2020 to offer assistance.
“Sometimes it’s better to be proactive than reactive,” said Hey, adding Southwest Coaches was the only transportation company to make the overture.
Southwest kept very busy
As a result of the outreach, the company was kept very busy providing 150 loads as part of Operation Safety Net.
“We did several runs because they were moving troops from point A to point B and then during the whole unrest in Minneapolis,” Hey said. “The guard presence was very large in Minnesota at that time. Then as they got closer to the trial, they needed transportation for the troops again.”
This summer, the Minnesota National Guard took the time to recognize businesses such as hotels for their role in supporting the troops during this difficult time. Southwest Coaches was the only transportation provider to be recognized.
“We were very honored to receive the certificate of appreciation,” Hey said. “It’s just a matter of thinking about the needs of the client and kind of anticipating, even before they call you.”
Going the extra mile
Although Southwest Coaches has provided transportation for the military for 40 years, the key to getting the job was not taking the relationship for granted. Going the extra mile paid off because more bus companies have been certified for military transportation during the pandemic as operators are looking for new opportunities.
“It’s just done nothing but grow for us as far as our presence with the military so it’s been a good fit for us and been able to keep our people somewhat busy and you know it kind of fills in when times are slow, so it’s been a great relationship,” Hey said.
The operator does business also under Southwest Tour & Travel and Minnesota Motor Bus, Inc. Just 14 of its 90 vehicles are motorcoach. Most of its business centers on school transportation.
The operator does business also under Southwest Tour & Travel and Minnesota Motor Bus Inc. Just 14 of its 90 vehicles are motorcoaches. Most of its business centers on school transportation.
“We were fortunate we did not lay off any employees,” Hey said of the company’s 160-person workforce.